Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz avoided endorsing a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians in a meeting with European envoys, and expressed hardline views toward Iran and the Gaza Strip.
Gantz met with European Union ambassadors in Israel “to hear his vision on EU-IL relations, Israel’s security and regional issues,” the EU’s Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted.
In his conversation with the EU ambassadors, Gantz did not explicitly endorse a two-state solution, but indicated that both Israelis and Palestinians “are here to stay” and that an arrangement needs to be found, a participant in the meeting told The Times of Israel.
The candidate for prime minister also said that regarding Iran, he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are “on the same page.”
“We won’t allow Iran to become a regional power, we will continue supporting the sidelining of its negative impact and of its efforts to undermine regional stability, and we will prevent it from developing nuclear military capabilities,” Gantz said.
“Israel cannot allow a nuclear Iran. If we can use diplomacy we will do so, but I won’t rule out other options.”
He also expressed similar views to Netanyahu on the fate of the Gaza Strip and its rulers, the terror group Hamas.
“Hamas is a gang holding two million people hostage,” he said. “Do you think if they have a maritime port, all they import will be orange juice? That they want economic development? The responsibility for the future of Gaza is in the hands of Hamas, not Israel.”
Austria’s ambassador Martin Weiss tweeted after the meeting that the discussion was “interesting” and that he was impressed by Gantz, whom he described as “cool and collected.”
Interesting morning discussion with EU-colleagues and the leader of the Kahol-Levan/Blue-White party Benny Gantz. He has often been described as a 'natural leader' and one can definitely see why – cool & collected pic.twitter.com/iMAMAQ9hX0
— Martin Weiss (@martinoweiss) March 12, 2019
Commenting on the current controversy surrounding the controversial Jewish nation-state law, Gantz said that “obviously, Israel is a state for all its citizens,” according to the source. A spokesperson for Blue and White denied that Gantz made that statement, but did not elaborate on what he did say.
If he in fact made it, the remark is an apparent rebuke of Netanyahu, who on Sunday responded to TV personality Rotem Sela’s complaint over the issue by saying that legislation passed last year enshrined Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people alone,” and “not a state of all its citizens.”
Netanyahu was slammed for that comment by many in Israel and abroad, though the Hebrew phrase that literally means a “state of all its citizens” is normally used to refer to a bi-national state as opposed to a Jewish state. Opposition to the country being defined as a bi-national state is mainstream in Israel.
Netanyahu subsequently said that Arabs are granted equal rights but only Jews have the right for national self-determination in Israel.
While Netanyahu was responding to Sela, he himself misquoted her and insinuated that she said Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish state.
In fact, her comment appeared to make the point that Arab Israelis should have equal civil rights and that Arab parties shouldn’t be demonized.
“What is the problem with the Arabs???” Sela wrote Saturday night in response to Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) claiming Blue and White wants to establish a government with the help of Arab parties. “Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and — shock — the leftists are human.”