Leader of Blue and White party Benny Gantz speaks on February 28, 2019.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Israel’s relationship with the US needs to be more than just about a relationship with the Republican Party, Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz said Tuesday during a meeting with 26 ambassadors from the European Union countries, led by EU Ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret.
Gantz’s comments come against the background of criticism that while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has developed a close relationship with US President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, he has lost key support among Democrats.
Asked whether he felt he could have the same type of relationship with US President Donald Trump as Netanyahu does, Gantz – according to one participant in the meeting – replied that relationships stem from interests, and that Israel and the US have many shared interests.
“I’m sure any prime minister will have a close relationship with every US president,” he was quoted as saying.
Responding to a question regarding the fate of Gaza, Gantz said: “Hamas is a gang of criminals that holds two million people hostage. So if there was a naval port, all they’ll want to import is orange juice? Really? Commerce? That’s it? I think the future of Gaza lies first and foremost in the hands of Hamas.”
In reference to the Iranian regime, Gantz said: “We will not allow Iran to become a regional power. We will continue supporting the containment of Iran, its negative influence, and its efforts to destabilize regional stability while preventing it from obtaining nuclear military capabilities.”
Gantz told the ambassadors that his policies on Iran were no different than those of Netanyahu.
“Israel cannot afford a nuclear Iran,” he said. “If we can use diplomacy, that would be better, but I will not rule out other options.”
Gantz talked about the need to separate from the Palestinians but did not endorse the two-state solution, which he has not spoken about due to the opposition of his political ally, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
One ambassador summed up the hour-long meeting by saying that Gantz gave them a sense of who he is without spelling out many policy details.
“Even if you don’t get many details, and who expects that four weeks before the elections, we did get a feeling of the man,” the ambassador said. “After talking to us for about an hour, he spoke about his family, his mother and his children – so you get a sense of who he is. And that is important.”
The meeting, held at the EU delegation offices in Ramat Gan, was initiated by the ambassadors, and most of the representatives of the 28 EU member countries showed up.
“There were no surprises,” one participant said. “He comes across as quite cool, quite optimistic, and also respectful of the prime minister.”
Gantz, participants said, kept the conversation “positive” and “optimistic,” and did not discuss Netanyahu’s indictments, saying only in general terms that “we can do this better, we can be better.”
Gantz was vague on the issue of a two-state solution, saying that semantics was not important, and that what was important was that “we don’t want to rule over them.” According to one participant, Gantz said, “They are not going away, and we are not going away. We are the strongest party in the region, and can initiate something, and that is what we should do.”
Gantz did not criticize the European Union, but rather – well equipped with numbers about trade – talked about the overall strength of the relationship.
“There was no criticism of bad Old Europe,” one ambassador remarked. “The meeting was friendly and respectful.”
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