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Abbas rebuffs Netanyahu claim he 'gave his blessing' to Gantz in election run

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas attends a meeting with the Revolutionary Council of the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah
'Abbas wished him (Gantz) success in the election,' Netanyahu claimed Wednesday

The Palestinian Authority (PA) told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop spreading lies after claiming that PA President Mahmoud Abbas endorsed Netanyahu’s top challenger in the upcoming national election.

“Statements about the fact that Abu Mazen gave his blessing to Ganz never happened and never existed,” the PA statement said referring to Abbas by his more commonly used Arabic name.

“Mr. Netanyahu, there is a saying in Arabic that says, 'You can lie to the dead, but not to the living.’ Please stop spreading lies in the name of Abu Mazen," the statement was quoted by Israel’s army radio.

The statements from the Israeli premier came after part of the first media interview of Benny Gantz was released Wednesday that sent the media and his political rivals into a frenzy as he continued to carefully toe the line between Israel’s traditionally left and right-wing stances.

“We must find a way not to rule over other people,” Gantz told the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronoth, in response to a question regarding his running mate, chairman of the newly established Telem party, Moshe Ya’alon, who on Sunday said that Israel has the "right to settle every part of the Land of Israel".

“We must take the lessons from the disengagement and implement them in other areas,” he told his interlocutor of Israel’s exit from Gaza in 2005, applauding its execution that was conducted “in a painful way, but a good one.”

Netanyahu’s Likud party and the New Right led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s immediately branded Gantz a left-wing traitor “who wants to expel more Jews from their homes during a unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria.”

“The problem is that Abbas is satisfied, because Benny Gantz said today that he would carry out a second disengagement in Judea and Samaria, and Abbas wished him success in the election,” Netanyahu responded Wednesday.

“This is why we have to go together, win these elections and prevent this. This is what election is really about: whether there will be a left-wing government led by Gantz or a Likud government led by me,” the premier added.

"We told you Benny Gantz would form a leftist government with the help of [Arab lawmakers]", a spokesman for Netanyahu's Likud faction said in its initial reaction to the Yediot Ahronoth interview with Gantz.

“A Gantz government will not take any unilateral steps related to evacuation of communities,” Gantz’s resilience party retorted on Wednesday in a well-cloaked statement that could be interpreted as either espousing continued Israel entrenchment in the West Bank or as stressing the need for consensus with the Palestinians in any future disengagement.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's spokesman said that the comments were "encouraging" but that they needed more details about Gantz's policies.

"It is encouraging if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion," Nabil Abu Rudeinah told journalists in Ramallah.

"We don't know him yet, we heard about him. As President Abbas keeps saying all that we need is an Israeli government who believes in peace."


Meanwhile on the other side of the political aisle, opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich also responded with alarm over Gantz’s leading the government, but in precisely the opposite sense, claiming he would just continue Netanyahu’s right-wing policies.

"Those who are considering voting for Gantz from the Central Bloc, must be careful not be misled and vote for him in hopes of replacing the government, because what they may find in retrospect is that they cast their vote for another period of Netanyahu's rule," Yachimovich said.

Gantz has tread carefully in the run-up to the April 9 vote, making a concerted effort to remain firmly on the center of the election’s most hot-button issues, opening him up to criticism from decidedly left and right-wing figures.

In his debut campaign speech last week, Gantz took aim at Netanyahu’s lengthy run in office, and positioned himself as tough-on-terror and no-nonsense when it comes to Iran and other regional foes while leaving open the prospect for peace.

A joint i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll published this week suggests that Gantz’s efforts to remain a centrist have been more or less successful.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents defined him as a centrist figure, while 22% defined him as left-wing and 14% defined him as right-wing.


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