The Blue and White party is investigating how recordings of two confidential conversations between its leader and prime ministerial hopeful, Benny Gantz, and a close group of colleagues ended up in the hands of his Likud rivals.
While reports talked of a possible mole in the camp of Likud’s main rivals ahead of the April 9 elections, Blue and White No. 3 Moshe Ya’alon hinted briefly that the recordings could have been made with listening devices operated from afar and not by a party renegade.
“Observe the current election campaign and its essence and not one anecdote or another. I am not certain that we are looking at a ‘human mole,‘” Ya’alon said in remarks during a visit to Gush Etzion on Wednesday.
In the first recording, which leaked some two weeks ago, Gantz was heard saying that he did not completely rule out joining forces with Benjamin Netanyahu, despite his public declaration that while Likud could be a legitimate partner in government, that would not be the case if Netanyahu was still in charge, due to the corruption suspicions against the prime minister.
In the same recording, Gantz was also heard saying he was willing to make significant concessions to ultra-Orthodox parties to get them to join a coalition he would head.
The second recording had Gantz saying that on the eve of elections, Netanyahu would not mind if he were to die.
Channel 13 aired the recording on Sunday, saying it had been made recently. Gantz could be heard making several apparently unfounded accusations about Netanyahu.
“If (Netanyahu) had a way that I would be harmed, that they would kill me, he would do it,” Gantz says, adding that the upcoming elections had made Netanyahu desperate.
“Would regular Benjamin Netanyahu, who I know, want me harmed? The answer is no. Would Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of elections want me harmed? Unfortunately I would have to say so,” said Gantz, who served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces under Netanyahu from 2011 to 2015.
Gantz, who is Netanyahu’s main challenger in the upcoming elections, has been on the back foot in recent days over reports that his cellphone was hacked by the Iranians.
Likud has tried to use the hack, which Gantz was informed about last year by Israeli security officials, to show he is unfit to lead the country. Gantz has charged that the leak of the breach to the media was politically motivated.
Likud released a series of campaign spots on Tuesday in which it sought to portray Gantz as mentally unstable.
“Benny Gantz has lost it,” ran the message, referring to the recording in which Gantz speculated that Netanyahu would be happy to see him dead and may have asked the Russians to interfere in the elections.
“His appearances speak for themselves. Gantz is scared and weak,” Likud said. “Apparently Gantz still believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to send killers to assassinate him and send the Russians to hack his phone.”
The spot drew condemnation from Gantz’s party as well as from Israel’s disability commissioner, who took issue with its portrayal of the aspiring prime minister as mentally ill.