Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz faced an onslaught from the Right on Monday, after issuing his first political statement in which he pledged to get the controversial Jewish Nation-State Law changed.
“I will do everything in my power to fix the Nation-State Law,” he said..
The Nation-State Law was passed
by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition in July. It will be challenged in the Supreme Court in two weeks.
Gantz also spoke about the bond between the Jews and the Druze. He declined to answer questions from the press.
Druze leaders are leading a campaign against the law that brought them to Gantz’s home in Rosh Ha’ayin on Monday, and they intend to visit more party leaders this week.
Gantz’s first comments since he formed his Israel Resilience Party on December 27 – when he promised a group of Druze leaders that he would fight the Nation-State Law – unleashed a fury of responses from parties on both ends of the political spectrum.
Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni praised Gantz for his criticism of the law, and demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take a stand on the Declaration of Independence.
“Remember that day when the Likud turns the Declaration of Independence into something of the Left,” Livni said. “Netanyahu must declare whether he is in favor or against the Declaration of Independence law.”
The Likud Party immediately fired back with a statement attacking both Gantz and Livni, stating, “When Gantz attacks the Nation-State Law and Tzipi Livni commends him for it, everyone knows what was obvious: Gantz is Left, just like Lapid.”
Likud MK Amir Ohana – who chaired the committee that legislated the law – said Gantz had harmed Israel’s resilience by opposing it.
“It is unfortunate that when Gantz finally decided to break his silence, he attacked a Basic Law that grants the State of Israel its identity card and protects its values,” Ohana said.
Gantz’s party shot back, saying the bill “shot our brothers in the back” and “we will heal them.”
The New Right Party likewise said the fact that Gantz’s first statement was against the Nation-State Law “proved he is a leftist.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a statement that the Nation-State Law “is a historic achievement that reestablishes the state’s national, Jewish and Zionist character in the face of ongoing erosion caused by the High Court of Justice. The Gantz plan to change the Nation-State Law clarifies his position.”
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said the Nation-State Law must be canceled, not fixed – and that Gantz had given the Right a victory by suggesting otherwise.
Others used Gantz’s first words as an opportunity to promote their own platforms.
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay turned the focus on the makeup of a future coalition.
“Gantz, you are right – equality must be added to the Nation-State Law,” Gabbay said, “but it can’t be done from within a Netanyahu government. I know, I was there. Do not despair, you can make a change. Commit not to sit in Netanyahu’s government.”
Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, took the chance to promote his party’s version of the controversial law.
“Benny Gantz expresses a worthy moral position on amending the national law,” Lapid wrote on Facebook. “It is important that there be a law that conforms to the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Therefore, one of the first things that will be done when we gain power will be the amendment of the current Nation-State Law to the Nation-State Law of Benny Begin and Yesh Atid.”
The most acute criticism came from Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who called Gantz’s statements “shameful” and “disingenuous” in light of Gantz’s alleged abandonment of a Druze soldier during the Second Intifada.
In October 2000, Madhat Yusuf was killed in the West Bank city of Nablus, and his family claimed that Gantz, then commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, did not rescue the injured soldier and did not take responsibility for the incident.
“When Palestinian terrorists shot Border Guard Madhat Yusuf, Benny Gantz was one of the commanders who turned his back on him,” Erdan wrote in a Twitter post. “He did not do ‘everything in his power’ to save Yusuf’s life.”
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