Benny Gantz unveils his party platform at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, January 29, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Officially launching the campaign of his political party Israel Resilience on Tuesday night, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said that Israel deserves leadership that is not condescending, is not divisive, and does not view itself as royalty.
Greeted like a homecoming hero by a packed crowd at Tel Aviv’s Exhibition Center with chants of “Revolution!” and “Who is coming? The next prime minister,” Gantz broke a months-long silence by staking his claim for the prime ministership.
Gantz thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the past decade of his service as prime minister and vowed to replace him. He praised Netanyahu for trying to achieve peace in the Wye River Memorandum but said “No leader is a king,” and repeatedly criticized the prime minister
for his alleged corruption.
“My government that I will form will have zero tolerance for corruption,” Gantz said in the speech covered live at the beginning of the nightly news for more than 20 minutes.
He said he would not give a hand to a government led by a prime minister with indictments hanging over him. He said a government led by him would end what he called “incitement against the legal establishment and the press.”
“The idea that a prime minister can stay in office who has been indicted is ridiculous in my eyes,” he said. “We will correct the relationships between the three branches of government.”
Leadership, he said, does not divide but is supposed to bring people together.
“No Israeli leader is a king,” he said. “Our country needs leadership that will behave differently and lead differently, that will not weaken us from within. The struggle between Left and Right is tearing us apart. The struggle between Jews and non-Jews is crushing us.”
“I love Israel, am proud of it,” Gantz said. “Israel is truly, for me, before everything. Citizens of Israel, those here and those at home, I have an obligation to you alone.”
Gantz said he would attempt to advance a peace process but would strengthen settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley would remain Israel’s security border, and Israel would never give up the Golan Heights.
Ahead of the event, Gantz aides Hod Betzer and Chili Tropper reached an agreement with former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem Party, which was represented in the talks by former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser and former Netanyahu spokesman Yoaz Hendel.
Gantz called Ya’alon “a man of values, my former boss and my new partner.” He promised more bonds with other parties.
“Benny, we are here tonight in order to win,” Ya’alon said. “We are the new political force that will restore the state to its people.”
Netanyahu reacted to the speech on Twitter by saying, “Another speech of Lapid, those who say they are neither Right nor Left – are Left.”
The Likud responded that “Gantz could not use laundered language to hide that he is left-wing.” The Likud said Gantz would unite with Yesh Atid to try to form a left-wing government.
“The overused trick of the Left to stick a general on top of a list to topple a right-wing government will not work this time,” Netanyahu’s party said.
The New Right, under Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s leadership, mocked the alliance by saying that “the last time Gantz and Ya’alon were together, it ended in 30 terror tunnels in the South.”
“Both are good people, who led the perception of the weak draw. This is a perception of turning a blind eye to threats rather than a determined treatment of the problem,” the statement by the new party said.
“There were quite a few generals’ parties and they all disappeared,” said former defense minister Avigdor Liberman about the alliance. “It is not enough to be a general,” Liberman continued. “You must have a comprehensive world view. [The party] rose leading up to the elections and will disappear before the next elections.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also reacted to the union of Gantz and Ya’alon, explaining, “These are good, ethical people and it is good that they are in politics.”
“It is a natural alliance,” he continued. “I wish them the best of luck.”
Uri Bollag contributed to this report.
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