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Netanyahu's Likud party prepares campaign to embarrass Gantz: report

FILE: Former Chief of General Staff of the IDF Benny Gantz and Chief of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen at the Memorial Ceremony marking 35 years since Yonatan Netanyahu's death in Operation Entebbe. At Herzl Mount, Jerusalem in 2011.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is gathering information about former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz in an attempt to find embarrassing stories that could undermine his candidacy in the elections, Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on Sunday.

Gantz, who formed his own party Hosen Yisrael, is currently seen as the only real threat to Netanyahu in the April 9 elections. The report by Yedioth Ahronoth suggested that Likud is gathering a “Gantz file” consisting of stories and testimonies by subordinates who served under the former IDF chief.

The “files” will reportedly also portray Gantz’ handling of Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war as a failure, since he was IDF chief at the time.

“Gantz knows exactly why he’s staying silent. Like that time (in 2014) when he told the cabinet that the tunnels from Gaza aren’t a threat. Really? Anyone who votes Gantz doesn’t know what he’s getting,” Likud’s Culture Minister Miri Regev said on Sunday.

The Likud’s newest member, former Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant from the Kulanu party, also commented on Gantz' relative silence in the election campaign.

“I think he knows why he’s being silent. I also know why he’s being silent and thousands of officers who served under our command know why he’s being silent. When you have nothing to say, you don’t talk,” Galant said at an event in Modiin on Saturday.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Shortly after Galant's comments, Gantz party issued a statement appearing to hit back at the new Likud member: “The people of Israel need a different discourse, a dignified and different leadership.”

Likud’s Science Minister Ofir Akunis accused Gantz of having “hidden left-wing views,” in an interview with Army Radio on Saturday.

“If Benny Gantz had right-wing views, like (supporting) the complete Land of Israel or opposition to a Palestinian state, he would tell you he’s stridently opposed to withdrawal to the June 4, 1967, lines and the division of Jerusalem. And he would tell you he supports free-market economics,” Akunis said.

In a rare interview with Channel 12, Gantz said Jewish settlements in the West Bank like “the Etzion bloc, Ariel, Ofra, and Elkana will remain forever.”

“But (the question is) how we arrange that they remain forever,” he added.

The ex-IDF chief said he is most concerned about the “fragmentation and radicalization” of Israeli society.

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

“Not necessarily between right-left, which is not our big story here, but more one against the other,” he said.

Gantz served as IDF Chief of Staff during Israel’s 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. Days before a massive rocket barrage hit Israel’s southern border communities, Gantz encouraged residents to return to their homes despite sporadic rocket fire.

“I wanted to strengthen the residents of the Gaza border communities,” he said, when asked about the incident. Gantz told Channel 12 he still believes in what he said but feels he may have “slipped” in terms of the timing and place of his words.

Saying he has not “run away from responsibility” for his comments, Gantz said a period of relative calm ensued following the war, meaning his remarks at least partially came to fruition.

With less than 100 days until Israel’s April 9 elections, Gantz has yet to provide details on his campaign platform or political stance.

Netanyahu has painted Gantz as dangerously left-wing, though Gantz has reportedly expressed trepidation about joining forces with anyone too far left saying that it would not be in line with his values.

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