Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz promised not to uproot any settlements in the Jordan Valley, explaining that it was vital to Israel’s security to hold onto the area.“This is a crucial strategic area, which Israel needs, always needed and will always need in the future,” Gantz said.“If there were times that [only] an [IDF] division was able to maneuver in this area, now there are times that other Jihadists or other elements or enemies might infiltrate this area,” he said.“Therefore, under any future circumstances, we are going to keep this area. We will try to strengthen it as much as possible with a national plan to support the settlements in this area,” he said.He promised to increase the population and to ensure “a safe and secure road that goes all along the African-Syrian break.”He also promised to provide a development plan for Palestinians in the area, based on Israel’s security need.“Israeli and Palestinians will be able to enjoy this area,” Gantz said.He made his comments as he stood on a Jordan Valley hilltop with a commanding view of the region, including date orchards and a water reservoir. He traveled with other party members including former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Both Gantz and Ya’alon are former IDF chiefs-of-staff.Gantz is the leading contender to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming September 17 election, and his party is polling in second place. In the April election, the Likud and Blue and White each received 35 mandates.Netanyahu, who made an election campaign stop in the Efrat settlement in the Gush Etzion region on Tuesday, also pledged not to uproot any settlements.He has often accused the Blue and White Party of wanting to form a left-wing coalition that would make dangerous territorial concessions.But Gantz’s position on the Jordan Valley mirrors that of Netanyahu, who has also spoken of it as a vital security asset for Israel.In June, Netanyahu visited the area with US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said that he agreed with that position.The Likud Party attacked Gantz's statement. "Benny Gantz is making widespread promises regarding the future of the Jordan Valley, but when he was the IDF Chief of Staff, he promoted plans for a full withdrawal of Judea and Samaria, and he wanted to turn over the Jordan Valley to international forces," it said."These elections are between Prime Minister Netanyahu – who has demonstrated his capabilities to withstand pressure and maintain the Land of Israel – and Gantz-Lapid-Barak, who will give up our homeland, withdraw from settlements and endanger the country," the Likud added.