Gantz hits back, accuses Netanyahu of ‘hate crime against democracy’

Blue and White been buffeted by a torrent of attacks by Netanyahu over the last week.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to Likud party election campaign banners in Jerusalem February 20, 2020. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to Likud party election campaign banners in Jerusalem February 20, 2020.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Blue and White Party leader MK Benny Gantz opened up a fierce broadside against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night, accusing him of a conducting a “hate crime against democracy” and of engaging in a campaign of slander against him and his party colleagues.
During an impassioned speech in Kfar Maccabiah, Gantz said that just a year and a half ago Netanyahu had asked him to join the Likud and offered him the position of defense minister. Gantz also called on the Central Elections Committee to prepare for any illegitimate tactics Netanyahu might employ on Election Day.
Blue and White has been buffeted by a torrent of attacks by Netanyahu over the last week, including accusations over the Fifth Dimension, a company Gantz chaired which is currently being investigated by the police, as well as various claims regarding Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi.
Gantz claimed that Netanyahu had also offered Ashkenazi the post of defense minister, but was now making “fabricated accusations” against him over comments regarding the Druze community.
“You, who tried to break the covenant of blood between us [Jews and Druze], and who was not prepared [to add] a small amendment to the nation-state law or to add an equality law for them,” declared Gantz in reference to the heavy opposition to the nation-state law by the Druze community which was passed by the last government.
The Blue and White leader went on to denounce Netanyahu’s attacks on the attorney-general and the state attorney, noting that the latter had to be given an escort of bodyguards due to threats against him in light of his role in indicting the prime minister.
“What you have done in the last month is not a campaign of hatred but a hate crime against democracy and Israeli democracy,” averred Gantz.
“You have built and grown a culture of crime, of state witnesses. A culture of bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” Gantz continued, in reference to the three criminal indictments against Netanyahu.
The Blue and White leader went on to express concern over possible illegitimate tactics Netanyahu and the Likud might use on Election Day, and called on the Central Elections Committee “to prepare and to get ready technologically and in terms of manpower and fitting organization” to tackle what he said would be “a tsunami of fake news” and efforts to “disrupt the elections.”
Gantz’s fiery speech comes after a week in which the polls have turned against Blue and White, with the Likud obtaining a small lead in several polls.
However, sources in Blue and White said Wednesday night that they have succeeded in putting the brakes on the party’s downward spiral in the polls.
Polls published Wednesday had different outcomes. A Midgam poll taken for Walla News found that the Likud and Blue and White were tied at 34 seats. A Panels Research poll taken for 103 FM gave the Likud a two-seat lead.
Netanyahu responded to Gantz’s speech at a well-attended Likud rally in Jerusalem, saying: “I heard Gantz say we are dividing Israeli society, but in his party, Blue and White, they incite all day and night and then complain about incitement.”
A Likud spokesman went further, saying that Gantz looked stressed at his press conference.
“It is time for Gantz to relax, drink a cup of water and come to a debate instead of acting like a crybaby,” the Likud spokesman said. “Politics is a tough job. Prime minister of Israel is even tougher. Gantz simply can’t do it.”
Earlier, in an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu said of Gantz: “We cannot have a prime minister who can be extorted by Iran. He called Gantz and Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi “losers.”
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz also attacked Blue and White on Wednesday, saying that the party’s campaign to take votes from Labor-Gesher-Meretz was “shameful.” Horowitz said Blue and White’s leaders were going crazy.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh mocked Netanyahu for his visit to the Arab town of Tamra on Wednesday. Less than 50 people came to the short meeting that was originally planned to be a large rally.
“Netanyahu crawled on all fours to put on a show of fawning to Arab society, speaking to an empty room,” said Odeh, who proudly posted pictures of a packed hall at his own event speaking to Jews in Tel Aviv.
The prime minister also visited a Sephardi yeshiva in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.