Blue and White leader Benny Gantz told a small group of confidants recently that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would harm him physically if he could, Channel 13 reported on Sunday evening.
“If he had a way to have me hurt, to have me killed, he would have done so,” Gantz was quoted as saying.
According to the report, Gantz also said that Netanyahu knows he will end up in prison, and suggested that the prime minister might have gotten Russia to hack his telephone in order to interfere in the election.
The Likud said in response that “Gantz has lost it.”
“If Gantz is showing advanced signs of paranoia after two weeks of pressure from the election and the Iranians hacking his phone, how can he run a country?” the Likud asked.
It was unclear how Channel 13 obtained the recording.
Earlier in the day, Gantz spoke at his hotel in Washington, where he told reporters that he does not accept Netanyahu’s argument that the defense minister and IDF chief of staff were not involved in the decision that led Germany to sell submarines to Egypt due to secrecy.
“I don’t know any secret that the defense minister and chief of staff are not allowed to know about,” he argued during a short question-and-answer session. Gantz will be speaking on Monday in an AIPAC plenary session and is in Washington for the occasion.
Gantz attacked Netanyahu and blamed him for involving “cousins” in this process: “Any strategic decision must be taken through the relevant institutions. Selling submarines, it’s not something that happens overnight. It is something with long-run consequences. You can’t run the country through your cousins.”
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit published a letter late on Sunday denying that Netanyahu had told him the secret about why he green-lighted Germany’s desire to sell submarines to Egypt.
Netanyahu and the Likud had said in interviews over the weekend that Mandelblit knew the classified reason why the prime minister removed Israel’s opposition to Germany selling submarines to Egypt and had found his reason lawful.
This is a hot-button issue, because Blue and White Party leaders have said that Netanyahu endangered Israeli national security with that decision and others in Case 3000, the “Submarine Affair,” keeping the defense establishment in the dark purely for the sake of personal benefit.
In contrast, Mandelblit sent a letter to the Movement for Quality Government in Israel explaining that all Netanyahu had done was tell police he had a secret reason for green-lighting the sale.
Netanyahu also offered to tell Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan the reason in private.
However, Mandelblit explained that since Netanyahu was only questioned as a witness in Case 3000 and not as a suspect, they decided at the time that it was unnecessary to meet with him over the issue.
It remains unclear if Mandelblit will demand that Netanyahu reveal the alleged secret basis for green-lighting the deal, now that he recently opened a new initial review of the prime minister’s conduct in the “Submarines Affair” based on information which only emerged in February.
Netanyahu was not a suspect when the police gave their full report on Case 3000 to Mandelblit in November.The Jerusalem Post
has also spoken to sources who indicated that one reason Netanyahu might have gone along with the Egypt deal was that it was expected Egypt would succeed in acquiring submarines. In that case, it was preferable that they acquire a design with which Israel was familiar, as opposed to a less familiar design from Japan, France, South Korea or elsewhere.
Some sources have said that Netanyahu’s decision appears to be sound, now, after the fact.
The Likud responded by expressing satisfaction that in his statement, the attorney-general wrote that the sale of submarines from Germany was solely a security issue and that Netanyahu offered to update him on the classified information but Mandelblit told him there was no need.
Netanyahu spoke to Mandelblit from Washington on Sunday and offered to brief him on the classified information upon his return.
Gantz will not be meeting with US President Donald Trump during this visit to Washington, while the prime minister will see his American counterpart two times. Gantz, however, denied reports that he tried without success to get a meeting with Trump, and threw his support behind Trump’s decision to recognize Israel sovereignty in the Golan Heights.
“I don’t think that President Trump is trying to interfere with [the elections] with the Golan Heights, and I don’t care about it if it’s good for Israel,” Gantz said.
“If somebody else is making a check mark on it – good for him. I care about Israel more than I care about myself,” he continued. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to return home with some achievements that are important to Israel as a whole, and I wish him success with it.”
When asked if he thinks that the administration is in any way interfering in the elections in favor of Netanyahu outside of the Golan Heights decision, Gantz replied with a diplomatic statement: “To the best of my knowledge, the American policy is to not interfere in other nations’ elections process. There are close relations between the prime minister and the president – whoever it may be. I think the Americans are not trying to interfere.
When confronted with the fact that the meeting between the two leaders will take place at the same time as his speech, he smiled and said: “What a coincidence, huh? But that’s life. Israel has one prime minister at a time.”
Gantz will take the stage at the AIPAC policy conference on Monday. Many people in the Israeli political scene are wondering if it is a smart move from Gantz’s side to appear on the same stage that Netanyahu will take 24 hours later, which will lead to the inevitable comparison between Netanyahu and Gantz’s rhetorical abilities.
“The American arena is important, and the Jewish Diaspora is important,” he told reporters. “I am not afraid to speak anywhere. I admit – I am more Israeli than American – my life is in Israel more than in the US – and I proud of it. I intend to represent Israel in the best possible way, even if it sounds a little bit less polished.”
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