New Right party leader Naftali Bennett on Wednesday brushed off a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ran a smear campaign against him in the 2013 election campaign, and fired a salvo against political newcomer Benny Gantz, accusing the former top IDF general of being weak.
“I am a politician, and as such I developed very, very thick skin in the face of any attack,” Bennett, the education minister, said of the campaign that Netanyahu reportedly waged against him and his family ahead of the 2013 elections, saying he only learned of it recently.
“I intend to put it behind us,” he added. “We have to gear up in order to create a real right-wing government headed by Netanyahu.”
Bennett, in an interview with the Ynet news site, accused Gantz of settling for “a tie” in the 2014 Gaza war instead of shooting for a decisive victory over the terror group.
“The question is not who is the next prime minister, because it will be Netanyahu,” Bennett said, acknowledging repeated polls showing that Netanyahu’s Likud party is expected to win handily in the national elections scheduled for April 9.
Asked if in light of the reported smear campaign, he could serve again in a Netanyahu-led government, Bennett said the bottom line is that there is a country to be managed.
“We are not a club of friends, and when I enter the cabinet, we take off the political robes and do what is good for Israel. And, professionally, we will definitely work together,” he said. “The decision in the elections is who will be the defense minister — Bennett or Gantz.”
Pushing his right-wing agenda, Bennett attacked the former chief of staff, whose new party, Israel Resilience, has yet to announce its election platform or list of candidates.
“I will say most clearly about Benny Gantz — the public will have to decide between a new right and a weak left,” he said, alluding to his party’s name. “I have nothing against Gantz on a personal level.”
Bennett, the former head of the religious Jewish Home party, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked split off and formed their New Right party last month, as a combined secular and religious political group.
Gantz announced at the end of December that his new Israel Resilience party would field a list of candidates in the upcoming elections. Gantz will break his months of near-silence next week at a campaign launch, where he is expected to outline his still-elusive political positions on the key issues he will focus on ahead of the April election.
The party said in a statement that the event will take place on Tuesday evening at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, a popular location for large political events.
While the statement did not specify that Gantz would indeed address the crowd, a poster for the event released by the party said simply, “Gantz speaks.” A spokesman for the party later confirmed that the ex-general, who has been tight-lipped since his emergence on the political scene, would be delivering the keynote speech.