Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz avoided a question about what parties he has voted for in the past in an interview published Friday in Yediot Aharonot.
Gantz, who established the Israel Resilience Party in December, said he did not always vote for the same party in the past.
Asked whether he had voted for right-wing parties in the past, he said he “always voted for parties in the Center, more or less, and it was always Zionist parties.”
He declined to answer whether he had voted for Likud but he said “the center is a wide concept” for him. He said he did not vote in the past for Yesh Atid.
Asked whether he would join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz said, “If he has an indictment, I will not sit with him.” He did not answer follow-up questions about whether he was referring to the indictment pending a hearing that is expected this month, or the final indictment that may not be ready until the beginning of 2020.
Gantz repeatedly said that he would win the election and form the next government. He said he would invite religious and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties to join his coalition.
When asked about Arabs, he said “I do not rule out anyone who is Zionist,” which means he would not invite Arab parties to coalition talks. He also ruled out forming a bloc with Arab parties that could prevent Netanyahu from forming a government.
The Likud released a statement misquoting Gantz and implying that he would sit in a government with Arab parties.
“What more proof is needed that the election is between a left-wing government led by Gantz and a right-wing government led by Netanyahu?” the Likud said in the statement.
The Likud also said Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he was encouraged by Gantz, though it was really Abbas’s spokesman responding to a misinterpretation of Gantz’s statement in the interview about West Bank withdrawals.
In the interview, Gantz said the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza was handled in a way that did not cause a rift in the nation, and said that lesson needed to be implemented elsewhere. He did not endorse a disengagement in the West Bank.
“I do not say unilateral, and I do not intend unilateral,” Gantz said. “But I will do something constructive. Until now, my profession was destroying.
Now my role will be building. I will not wait. I will build.”
Gantz called himself “both secular and traditional,” saying he makes the kiddush prayer on Friday nights and goes to his family’s synagogue, where he sits where his father used to sit.
He said that rumors his wife Revital was involved with farleft group Machsom Watch were ridiculous and completely false, and he would consider a lawsuit against Science and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis, who repeated the rumors in a radio interview.
Members of the all-female Machsom Watch stand at IDF checkpoints in the West Bank to monitor soldiers’ behavior.
The group asserts that it tries to prevent human-rights abuses but has been accused of harassing IDF soldiers on duty and advocating for the Palestinian cause.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (New Right) labeled Israel Resilience party chairman Benny Gantz as “a man of the left,” in an interview with Nissim Meshaal on 103 FM radio on Friday morning.
She also implied that Gantz was embarrassed to fully reveal his left-wing political views.
In a separate interview with the same newspaper, former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, who is running on the list being formed by Gantz and fellow former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, painted Gantz’s views as similar to Netanyahu’s.
“He will build in the territories at least as much at Netanyahu,” Hauser said. “On diplomatic issues, there is no difference between him and Netanyahu.”
Another recruit to the party brought by Ya’alon, journalist Yoaz Hendel, said on Saturday night on Channel 13 – in his first interview since entering politics – that there is no twostate solution.
Meretz released a statement reacting to the Hauser and Hendel interviews, calling the Israel Resilience Party rightwing.
Channel 12 reported that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid offered Gantz to merge their parties and have a rotation as prime minister, but Gantz turned it down because his party receives twice as many seats as Yesh Atid in the polls.