Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is weighing a political run in the 2019 elections, said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t indicted on corruption charges, he is fit to remain in office.
But Gantz also expressed support for imposing term limits on Israel’s leader.
Speaking at a conference at the Sapir College near Sderot on Tuesday, Gantz said he was “very seriously considering” entering politics and running for parliament in the next elections.
He told students that due to the resolution of the latest coalition crisis over a bill to exempt ultra-Orthodox student from joining the IDF — which, had it come to a head, could have led to early elections — he was not pressed to decide right now whether to run for Knesset.
Addressing the multiple bribery probes involving Netanyahu, in two of which police have recommended indicting the prime minister, Gantz said that “if Netanyahu is elected again and there won’t be criminal charges, he is fit to be prime minister.”
“This is the hardest job in the country,” he said. “It is very easy to stand in the corner and pound the person with that vocation.”
But he added that the prime minister’s tenure “must be limited by law. I’m talking about any prime minister, not just Bibi,” using Netanyahu’s nickname.
“Being in governmental positions for a long time produces a sort of apathy, and a reasonable limitation is the right thing,” Gantz added.
Gantz, 58, who served as the military’s chief of staff from February 2011 until February 2015, commanded the 2014 war in Gaza.
He and the army drew considerable criticism in a state comptroller report published in February 2017, which said it had not adequately prepared to face the threat of Hamas attack tunnels.
In January, Gantz said during a conference in Eilat that it would “take some time” before he entered politics, but indicated that he was in talks with several political parties.
“There’s no question here of [Avi] Gabbay [head of Zionist Union], [Yair] Lapid [leader of Yesh Atid], or Likud or Yisrael Beytenu, or Jewish Home or Meretz, okay? Everyone talks with everyone else, it’s natural,” he said.
Since leaving the army, Gantz has focused on social issues.
In April, together with another former army chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, and a former Yesh Atid party education minister, Rabbi Shai Piron, Gantz launched a social movement aimed at healing rifts in Israel society and encouraging dialogue between Israelis from various communities.
In June, he told a University of Haifa conference about the institution’s new study on the country’s “national resilience,” stating that Israel’s ability to withstand attacks could be weakened not by outside forces but by the increasing infighting between the groups that make up Israeli society.
“We have, of course, a challenge with international delegitimization, but we have a more important challenge in internal differences,” he said.
In November 2015, a poll showed that Gantz would defeat Benjamin Netanyahu by a wide 44% to 32% margin if a race for the prime minister were to be held on the day people were surveyed.
Ganz’s mandatory cooling-off period before he is allowed to run for office expired last month.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.