All of Israel will unite if a strike against Iran is needed, National Unity leader Benny Gantz said at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on Monday.
“Today, in an ever-shifting global and Middle East reality, our nation is threatened by the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran,” Gantz said. “We must stress that a nuclear Iran is first and foremost a global challenge, endangering global and regional stability.”
Speaking at the conference gala the night before, he expanded on that point: “Iran’s impact is a potential existential threat to the State of Israel, but the influence Iran has on Venezuela has nothing to do with the Middle East; Iran’s interest in Western Sahara has nothing to do with the Middle East. More Saudis were attacked by Iranian proxies than Israelis.”
As such, he added, “when we talk about the need to stop Iran from becoming nuclear capable, we are saying it not only from the Israeli perspective, but from a regional and global perspective.”
Gantz: The 11th hour has arrived to stop nuclear Iran
Gantz said on Monday that “the 11th hour” has arrived: “We cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”
“As an opposition leader, I want to emphasize this message: We will do whatever it takes to prevent an existential threat to the State of Israel. We know such action might come at a great cost, but, as always in these matters, all of Israel’s leadership and people will unite,” he stated, adding that such unity is “imperative.”
It’s also important “to do everything possible to reinforce our security cooperation with our most important ally, the United States of America.”
Gantz added: “We cannot allow tactical actions or internal politics to hinder our security.”
“One cannot ignore what is going on with protests against what this government calls judicial reform. What we currently see in Israeli society is a wake-up call. Israeli society is fighting for its future image, that Israel should stay Jewish, and strongly democratic, should respect tradition but be a liberal country with an open mind.”Benny Gantz
Gantz talks Israeli domestic turmoil
The former defense minister described Israel’s current domestic challenge as “transforming from a melting pot to a nation of tribes.”
“This is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “Our mission, however, is to ensure that our tribes live side by side, serve the needs of the country and continue building Israel together.
Israel will continue to survive “as long as Israel remains as it was designed 75 years ago, to be Jewish and democratic.”
Gantz called to “recreate a sense of national decency,” and “to fairly distribute resources according to the needs of individual sectors and national needs, not according to political parties.
Referring to this government’s increased benefits for full-time yeshiva students and schools that do not teach core curriculum subjects, Gantz said: “We need all parts of society to contribute to our economy and support its development.”
At Sunday’s gala, Gantz said that “one cannot ignore what is going on with protests against what this government calls judicial reform. What we currently see in Israeli society is a wake-up call. Israeli society is fighting for its future image, that Israel should stay Jewish, and strongly democratic, should respect tradition but be a liberal country with an open mind.”
He warned that governments must have checks on their powers.
“I want to be prime minister of Israel, but I want limits on my government. I want an open media,” he said.
Gantz also expressed concern that young American Jews feel less connected to Israel, and called to “fortify bridges to connect with the tribes of the Diaspora.”
Still, the former defense minister was optimistic about Israel, “a dynamic society, a resilient economy… a state that is truly a unicorn.
“Every single day, Israelis deliver on the promise to ensure never again will we be dependent on the graces of others,” he said. “After 2000 years in exile, we are not simply free, we are thriving.”
Fewer than 50 demonstrators against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, most of whom appeared to be retirees, gathered outside Gotham Hall in Midtown Manhattan, where the conference was held. Some wore shirts saying “Zionism = democracy” and “Saving Israeli Democracy.” Others held signs with messages such as “without the High Court of Justice there is no equality,” and “US Jews want a Democratic Israel” with crossed-out photos of cabinet ministers scheduled to speak at the event.
Conference attendees were greeted inside with a sign asking them to behave respectfully, and cabinet ministers were able to speak undisturbed.
At least two protesters opposed to the government’s judicial overhaul plans were blocked from entering the conference. A video clip on social media showed New York-based Israeli activists Shany Granot-Lubaton and her husband Omer being forcibly evicted from the entrance by security guards.
The two said they had tickets to the conference but were disinvited due to their political opinions.
In the hall, a repurposed bank built in the neoclassical style featuring mock Roman columns and an ornate domed ceiling, attendees sat around round tables, networking and listening to high-profile speakers talk about a broad range of topics from diplomacy to defense, aviation, sports and more.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.