Benny Gantz launches 'action forum' against Netanyahu's gov't, calls on partners to join

This inter-factional forum, the defense minister said, will act to block "violations of [Israel's] democratic values."

Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz delivers a statement to the media at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020.  (photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)
Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz delivers a statement to the media at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020.
(photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz launched a campaign on Sunday evening to battle controversial policy changes agreed upon in negotiations to form prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's government, calling future opposition leaders to establish an "action forum"

This forum, Gantz says, will act to block "violations of [Israel's] democratic values," including in education, IDF conduct and the state's system of checks and balances, a statement read.

Gantz also called on Israelis to sign a petition to join "the struggle over Israel's image."

New opposition fights back against change in IDF conduct, education

This comes amid incoming national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's controversial public support for five Israeli soldiers who were suspended last week for beating left-wing activists in the West Bank city of Hebron. Ben-Gvir said it was “very unfortunate that a soldier who suffered harassment was sent to prison just for mentioning my name,” and claimed that the “inappropriate” punishment limited the ability of soldiers to act.

The defense minister condemned what he claimed to be a politicization of the Israeli military by the Otzma Yehudit head. Gantz also hit out at Netanyahu's agreement to give Ben-Gvir enhanced authority within the Public Security Ministry, accusing the Likud leader of creating a “private army” for Ben-Gvir in the West Bank.

The National Unity leader claimed this will harm the Israeli defense establishment by distributing the responsibility for security in the region to more than one authority.

 Noam MK Avi Maoz attends a discussion at the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on November 22, 2022.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Noam MK Avi Maoz attends a discussion at the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on November 22, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Another issue that arose from the Likud's coalition negotiations is anti-LGBTQ and far-right lawmaker MK Avi Maoz, who is set to receive control of the Education Ministry’s unit responsible for external programming at schools.

The announcement of the agreement concerned educational authorities, parents and students from the LGBTQ community fearing damage to areas that help prevent prejudices against the community. Furthermore, more than 50 local authorities in Israel announced on Saturday that they will not cooperate with Maoz's future policies and that they will self-fund the plans that will be affected as a result. 

Maoz was also embroiled in a verbal spat with Gantz's fellow National Unity lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton, with Maoz claiming that the education minister's new guidelines on the treatment of LGBTQ children in schools "violate the children's rights and that the parents' consent was more important. He ended by mocking Shasha-Biton and asking her if she prefers to be addressed as ma'am or sir.

Last week, Gantz also condemned a tweet written by Maoz's Noam faction which criticized a decision by the outgoing Israeli government to "erect a monument in memory of enemy soldiers," as Noam wrote on Twitter.

Gantz calls on outgoing gov't partners to coordinate

On Saturday evening, Gantz wrote to his partners in the outgoing government that, due to the "emerging reality of the coalition agreements and in terms of damage done to our democratic values, it is important we establish an executive form that will discuss coordinated tactics in parliament, the public and the media."

The defense minister further stressed on Twitter that such a forum would not "detract from each Knesset faction's ability to act independently."

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.