Gantz: I will nurture pluralism, implement Western Wall agreement

Blue and White leader says country must be governed by "pragmatic hands" not for "personal legal concerns."

Benny Gantz speaking in Naharayim  (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Benny Gantz speaking in Naharayim
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz pledged on Tuesday to promote religious pluralism in Israel and implement the abandoned Western Wall agreement, should he become prime minister.
He was speaking at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting, where he and his speech were warmly received, particularly for his promises on pluralism; his promise to make efforts toward regional peace; and comments referencing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal problems.
Tensions have erupted over the last four years between the Israeli government and the Diaspora Jewish leadership – particularly in the US – over the lack of recognition for the non-Orthodox denominations in the Jewish state, and the failure to create a government-recognized progressive Jewish prayer area at the Western Wall.
“Throughout our history, our fight for survival and freedom has been empowered by a secret weapon: Our unity,” said Gantz. “Over the past decade, this secret weapon of ours started to crumble. The divide within Israel deepened, but also the divide with the Diaspora. When I will be the prime minister of Israel, I will embrace all streams of Judaism. We are part of an inspiringly colorful mosaic of cultures and traditions. I will nurture this pluralism.”
The Blue and White leader said that as prime minister, he would “promote the implementation of the Western Wall agreement,” a plan that was approved by Netanyahu’s last government but was subsequently frozen following pressure from ultra-Orthodox and religious-Zionist parties.
“The Western Wall is long enough for us all,” he said.
Gantz also deplored the harsh rhetoric witnessed in recent months during the course of the two rancorous election campaigns waged since last December.
“If you want hope, we must have unity,” he explained. “If we want security we must have unity. The divisive dialogue is tearing our strong nation apart. It is shredding the fabric that is holding us together. I promise to restore hope, instead of building on fear.”
Speaking in reference to the current coalition negotiations and his efforts to form a government, Gantz made a none too subtle dig at Netanyahu’s current legal woes and the imminent decisions on whether he will be indicted for the criminal charges against him.
“The Israeli public and the world must know that the leadership of this country is pragmatic and has a steady hand on the tiller for the good of the State of Israel, and not for personal legal issues,” he said.
Gantz and Blue and White have insisted that they will not join a government led by Netanyahu if he is indicted or under recommendation for indictment, as he currently is.
During his address to the Jewish Agency, he also pledged to provide security to Jewish communities around the world, and recalled the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh last year and the recent attack against a synagogue in Halle, Germany.
“As a former chief of staff of the IDF, as the political leader tasked with forming the Jewish state’s next government – and above all, as a Jew – I say to our brothers and sisters around the world: Israel stands with you, behind you and, when needed, in front of you,” said the Blue and White leader. “Israel will do all in its power to ensure that from Paris to Jacksonville, from Berlin to Manchester, Jews can walk on the streets without hiding without hiding their identity.”
During his talk, Gantz insisted that recent warnings by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Aviv Kochavi about security threats from Iran are “real and acute,” and also praised US President Donald Trump for the US Special Forces operation which resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
At the same time, he said the region remains under “a shadow of extremism and war,” and called specifically for help from the international community for the Kurds in northern Syria, who came under attack from Turkey following Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from the region.
Talking about Israel’s diplomatic standing in the Middle East, and in reference to the conflict with the Palestinians, Gantz said that he would “find regional partners who share our interests and values,” adding that “I will not shy away from the prospect of peace, because I believe our people, and any people, should have something to believe in.”