An attempt to look presidential? - analysis

Was he at the Munich Security Conference for political gain? Of course. Benny Gantz is a politician now, but he's just getting his start in politics and international diplomacy.

February 18, 2019 16:42
2 minute read.
Benny Gantz, chairman of the Israel Resilience Party

Benny Gantz, chairman of the Israel Resilience Party, speaks at an event launching his campaign, January 29th, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Listening to reports from Israeli media outlets, one would think that Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz did not receive a formal invitation to the Munich Security Conference.

Perhaps he just happened to rent a room in the same venue, and spoke there to Israeli media and those watching in Israel on his Facebook page. That impression was strengthened by Gantz not being on the original agenda of the conference, and his speech not being broadcast on the conference’s website.
It is correct that Gantz was not asked to speak in the main hall at the conference, where Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had spoken just minutes before. Only speeches from that hall were broadcast live on the website.

But Gantz was hardly a sideshow, and he did not infiltrate the conference. He was very much an invited guest and spoke in the same room as the prime minister of Greece, Macedonia’s president and Ivanka Trump.

Gantz’s associates have refused to reveal his schedule or indicate whom he met with at the conference, saying only that he engaged with world-renowned leaders and security figures.

If Gantz’s goal was to “look presidential,” there would have been organized photo-ops. There would undoubtedly have been enough leaders who would want to meet a potential successor to Netanyahu, as there have been for Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid in recent years.

Perhaps more would have been done to polish Gantz’s speech and make him sound more like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in English. He didn’t even bring props.

The truth is that Gantz knows that he cannot compete with Netanyahu on the international stage. He knows that he isn’t ready for the biggest hall in the biggest conferences yet. He didn’t come with an earth-shattering message to the world.

And that is okay with Gantz. He is just getting his start in politics and international diplomacy.

Was he there for political gain? Of course. He is a politician now. Going there ahead of Thursday’s deadline for submitting lists to the Central Elections Committee reinforces the message that he will be the main alternative to Netanyahu in the April 9 election.

But, Gantz’s strategy for now remains to lay low and try not to make mistakes ahead of the big decision by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. There will be plenty of time for more grandiose speeches later.

For instance, the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington is still a month away, and it has not yet been confirmed whether Gantz will be addressing the massive crowd.

Looking presidential will come when the time is right.

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