Eisenkot: Netanyahu government with Ben-Gvir could damage ties with US

Eisenkot also did not hold back from criticizing the leaders of what are expected to be the two largest parties – Netanyahu and Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

 Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot at the National Unity Party.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot at the National Unity Party.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

A government led by opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu that includes far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir could damage Israel’s relationship with the US, former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, No. 3 on the National Unity Party list, said Wednesday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

“Netanyahu may have a chance of reaching 61 [seats], but this will be a negative development for the State of Israel,” he said.

“Such a government will have difficulty receiving internal and international legitimacy. I see in the special relations with the US a sharing of values and strategic interests of the first degree – and I am worried that such a government could harm the relations,” Eisenkot said.

“It will be a government of extremists with a lack of capabilities and wiggle room to do the correct things [on security],” he added. “Instead of fighting terrorists, there will be terrorist attacks, and instead of differentiating between civilians and terrorists, there will be collective punishment.”

“It will be a government of extremists with a lack of capabilities and wiggle room to do the correct things [on security], instead of fighting terrorists there will be terror attacks, and instead of differentiating between civilians and terrorists there will be collective punishment.”

Gadi Eisenkot

“This would be a government with people like [MKs] Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who believe that Israel should rebuild settlements in the Gaza Strip. This is an act of strategic blindness,” Eisenkot said in the interview, which will be published in full on Friday.

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir were not role models for Israel’s youth, Eisenkot said.

Itamar Ben-Gvir waves a flag at the Jerusalem Flag March on June 15 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Itamar Ben-Gvir waves a flag at the Jerusalem Flag March on June 15 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“It seems to me like a paradox that two people whose shared characteristic is that they broke the law, [and] that one did not serve in the IDF at all while the other served for 10 months, serve as role models for Israel’s youth. This is an upside-down world,” he added.

“It seems to me like a paradox that two people whose shared characteristic is that they broke the law – that one did not serve in the IDF at all, while the other served for 10 months – serve as role models for Israel’s youth,” he said. “This is an upside-down world.”

Eisenkot did not refrain from criticizing the leaders of what are expected to be the two largest parties – Netanyahu and Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Netanyahu’s image as “Mr. Security” is not as accurate as people think, Eisenkot said.

Eisenkot, who served as IDF chief of staff under Netanyahu for nearly four years from 2015-2019, said Netanyahu made two cardinal strategic mistakes: convincing then US president Donald Trump to leave the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and allowing for the stagnation of peace talks with the Palestinians.

“I think that [pushing Trump to leave the Iran deal] was a severe strategic mistake that enabled Iran to violate the agreement, and under Netanyahu, Iran came far closer to becoming a nuclear power,” Eisenkot said.

In addition, “the lack of willingness to initiate moves on the Palestinian front out of political concern and an unwillingness to create conflict created stagnation that effectively strengthened Hamas and weakened the moderate elements,” he said.

Lapid not operating correctly on security, Eisenkot says

Lapid also was not operating correctly on security, Eisenkot said, citing Lapid’s speech earlier this month in the UN, where he brought up the two-state solution.

“What Lapid is offering, two states for two people, is not relevant now,” he said. “It does not match the reality that [the Palestinian] leadership not only does not know how to accept [a state], but on the contrary, it will lead to a deterioration in the security situation.”

Regarding the Lebanon maritime border agreement, which was placed for review on the Knesset floor last Wednesday, Eisenkot echoed Gantz in saying that the agreement was not “historic,” as Lapid made it out to be, indicating that Lapid was trying to exaggerate the deal’s importance for political gain.

The full interview will appear in Friday’s Frontlines.