Benny Gantz's cluelessness on US politics

According to Gantz, it is Netanyahu’s fault that Israel has become a partisan issue in the US, and it is the mission of the “anybody-but-Bibi” faction to remedy the situation

BLUE AND WHITE Party leader Benny Gantz poses for a selfie at a party rally in Tel Aviv this week. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
BLUE AND WHITE Party leader Benny Gantz poses for a selfie at a party rally in Tel Aviv this week.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Addressing a large audience of English-speaking Israelis on Monday, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz made a promise that he cannot possibly keep. This isn’t what made his vow laughable, however. It’s par for political candidates to give utopian guarantees to prospective voters, particularly during the final countdown to an election – or, in this case, the last days leading up to a third round of Knesset elections on March 2, which are likely to result in the same impasse as the previous two.
Nor did the message that Gantz conveyed to the 1,000 people present at the Tel Aviv International Salon event get muddled as a result of his heavy Hebrew accent. No, the contender to the premiership that has been held for more than the past decade by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said what he meant and meant what he said, as did his running mate, Yair Lapid, who shared the podium and the sentiment that Netanyahu is to blame for the growing lack of support for Israel in America’s Democratic Party.
“It’s very important that we return to the bipartisan relationship between Israel and the United States,” Gantz said. “This is something that Netanyahu, unfortunately, neglected.”
Gantz assured the crowd that, unlike Netanyahu – who shows favoritism for the Republican Party – Blue and White “doesn’t care if the American president is a Republican or a Democrat. If he is a good president for the United States, by definition, he will be a good president for the State of Israel, as well.”
According to Gantz, it is Netanyahu’s fault that Israel has become a partisan issue in the US, and it is the mission of the “anybody-but-Bibi” faction, if elected to head the next Israeli government, to remedy the sorry situation.
“We have rehabilitation to do with the Democratic Party,” Lapid chimed in. “But we also need rehabilitation with American Jewry.”
They have got to be kidding.
Though they’re right that support for Israel is far higher among Republicans than Democrats – and that any US president who is good for America is good for Israel – Netanyahu has nothing to do with it. Ditto for American Jewry, which is predominantly Democrat. If Gantz and Lapid don’t know this by now, they haven’t been paying attention.
Nor do they seem to take into account the not-so-gradual radicalization of the Democratic Party with which they intend to “rehabilitate” relations. This is the Democratic Party that pushed for the Iran deal; the Democratic Party, many of whose prominent members voted against the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act,” which provides $38 billion in defense assistance to Israel and rewards states that do not tolerate BDS; the Democratic Party whose presidential candidates recently shunned the AIPAC conference to attend that of J Street; the Democratic Party that opposed every one of US President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel moves; and yes, the Democratic Party that views Israel as an evil occupier and aggressor.
GANTZ, WHO served as IDF chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge – Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza – really ought to realize that his military uniform alone is anathema to the American Left.
It is amusing to note that when he first entered politics in December 2018, launching a party called Israel Resilience ahead of the April 2019 Knesset elections, Gantz boasted about having sent “parts of Gaza back to the Stone Age.”
In a series of campaign videos titled “Only the Strong Survive,” the retired general proudly took credit for the killing of many Hamas terrorists – with footage of funerals, to boot – and for being behind the assassination of Hamas military wing commander Ahmed Jabari.
That he softened his saber-rattling through slogans about striving for peace did not assuage the likes of hard leftists in the Democratic Party. To vociferous House reps such as Ilan Omar (D-Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Gantz is a war criminal, no different from his – and their – nemesis, Netanyahu.
The fact that Gantz met with and praised Trump in Washington late last month and returned to Israel claiming to champion the bulk of the US president’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan could not have helped. It certainly caused him grief from left-wingers in Blue and White, not to mention problems with the far-left parties he needs in order to form a coalition, and threats from the anti-Zionist Joint Arab List, without whose backing his bloc is way smaller than Netanyahu’s.
To put it simply, if he can’t even heal ideological rifts at home, his fantasy of being able to do so across the ocean is mysterious. Indeed, even if he becomes prime minister at some point, it is the Republicans who will be on his side, not the Democrats – unless he adopts policies that are suicidal for Israel, that is. But even then, there’s no guarantee that the Israel-bashers would be satisfied. The nearly 61-year-old wannabe Israeli PM is old enough to know this.
As Matthew Continetti wrote in the December 2019 issue of Commentary magazine, “Americans who belong to the millennial generation or to Generation Z have no memory of the Middle East ‘peace process.’ Nor can they recall the Second Intifada or the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Many American Jews express their identity not through religious practice and Zionism but through social-justice activism and tikkun olam. To them, Israel is an oppressive state with un-egalitarian religious and political systems. In a 2007 study, fewer than half of American Jews age 35 or younger said, ‘Israel’s destruction would be a personal tragedy.’”
He continued: “The following year, Barack Obama won two-thirds of the millennial vote and 78% of the Jewish vote. While he was sure to pay obeisance to the imperatives of Israeli security, Obama’s actions as president created the space for anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activism within the Democratic Party. ‘When there is no daylight [between Israel and the United States], Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs,’ he said in 2009.
“AIDED BY J Street, Obama opened the shutters and blinds and flooded the US-Israel relationship with daylight. His demand that Israel freeze settlement construction gave the Palestinians the opportunity to refuse talks. His decision not to punish Bashar Assad for gassing Syrians damaged American credibility and regional stability. His nuclear agreement with Iran not only endangered Israel but also divided and demoralized the pro-Israel community. In his final month in office, Obama broke 35 years of precedent and declined to veto a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
“Ironically – and predictably – these actions failed to build up credibility with Arab governments terrified by Obama’s attempted rapprochement with Iran. What Obama did do was prepare the ground for politicians and activists hostile to the Jewish state and Jews... [to the point that his] second term in office saw an explosion in far-left activity that manifested itself on campus and in Black Lives Matter, intersectional theory, and the [Bernie] Sanders movement... [which] find insignificant, if they acknowledge at all, the threats to Israel and to Israelis from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian terrorism. A few quietly hope for the success of Israel’s enemies. In their view of the world, Palestinians and other members of victimized classes have no agency and therefore no responsibility.”
When Trump came along, he proceeded to eliminate the glaring “daylight” between America and Israel in which Obama was so bent on basking. Naturally, Netanyahu was relieved, and not only because he had been forced during Obama’s eight-year tenure to engage in a delicate balancing act: careful not to alienate the White House on the one hand, yet simultaneously working to keep Israel safe and prosperous on the other.
It was a mean feat that not many leaders would be capable of pulling off, certainly not while managing to forge alliances with Arab neighbors across the Middle East. It is impossible to imagine Gantz doing it. He doesn’t even grasp that Democrats, not Netanyahu, are responsible for their own rift with Israel.
As for non-Orthodox American Jews, whose anger at Netanyahu ostensibly stems from their feeling ostracized by the Israeli rabbinate; the joke’s on them. In fact, religious pluralism has grown by leaps and bounds under Bibi, who inherited policies of his predecessors that are difficult to reverse, due mainly to Israel’s political system.
In addition, the survey cited by Continetti – according to which young American Jews expressed apathy about the possibility of “Israel’s destruction” – was conducted in 2007, when Ehud Olmert, not Netanyahu, was prime minister. This is the same Olmert who earlier this month held a joint press conference in New York with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reject Trump’s peace plan.
You know, since it recognizes Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel and requires that the Palestinians renounce terrorism before establishing an independent state and receiving billions of US dollars.
The GOOD news is that Gantz will not be given the chance any time soon to put his silly campaign promise to the test. Not only would it be futile, but it might shake relations with the current administration in Washington, which – if the Democrats’ pathetic attempts to oust Trump are anything to go by – is here to stay until 2024.