Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz (R).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz traded personal barbs as their criticism of one another intensified on Tuesday night, with the ex-IDF chief calling Israel's premier "the ruler of Israel" and Netanyahu firing back that Gantz "should be ashamed" of himself.
In the unveiling of his list for Knesset in Tel Aviv, Gantz took a shot across the bow at Netanyahu, claiming he has ruled Israel for a decade using incitement, intimidation and fear.
“When I lay in muddy foxholes with my soldiers on frozen winter nights, you, Benjamin Netanyahu, left Israel to improve your English and practice it at luxurious cocktail parties,” Gantz said.
“On the days when I commanded the Shaldag combat unit in life-threatening operations on enemy soil, you, Benjamin Netanyahu, worked your way bravely and determinedly between makeup sessions in television studios. While I trained generations of commanders and fighters, you took acting lessons in a New York studio.”
Netanyahu quickly returned volley, noting he risked his life "time after time for the sake of the State [of Israel] in a Facebook post.
"Benny Gantz, you should be ashamed of yourself. As a soldier and as an officer in Sayeret Matkal, I risked my life time after time for the sake of the state. I was wounded in a battle with terrorists. I almost lost my life in a fire exchange in the Suez Canal for the security of the country that you want to risk with unilateral withdrawals and support for the dangerous nuclear agreement with Iran," he wrote.
Gantz drew a distinction for the upcoming April elections, saying the contest was a two-horse race between Netanyahu's Likud and his Israel Resilience.
“In a month and a half, we will all choose between a ruler who has English from Boston, heavy makeup, and luxury suits – and an Israeli leadership which is real, caring, authentic and not phony,” Gantz said.
He summarized the election by saying that “Israel must choose: either Bibi [Netanyahu] before all – or Israel before all.”
Netanyahu, for his part, contrasted his "strong right-wing government" and a hypothetical "weak Left government."
"Israeli citizens will choose between a strong right-wing government headed by me and a weak Left government headed by you [Benny Gantz]," the prime minister wrote.
Meanwhile, ex-Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who placed ninth on the Likud's list after the party's primaries, came to Netanyahu's defense, calling on Gantz to walk back his criticism.
"Even during an election period, there are things that are not done and said, and even when there is criticism, it should be said in a factual and respectful way towards a prime minister who represents the State of Israel vis-à-vis the entire world," he said in a statement. " Benny, don't sling mud at a prime minister who risked his life, was wounded and lost his brother, all for the sake of Israel's security."
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