'It's becoming a bit of a political show'

Gantz blasts Netanyahu for loose lips during Hezbollah flareup

Blue and White leader and ex-IDF chief steps up criticism of PM, says publicly admitting to tricking Iran-backed group ‘completely unnecessary’ and will harm Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) watches a Golani Brigade exercise alongside then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz in the Golan Heights on September 11, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) watches a Golani Brigade exercise alongside then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz in the Golan Heights on September 11, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Monday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for revealing too much information about a surge in violence along the Lebanese border the previous day.

Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief rival in upcoming elections, blasted the prime minister for shifting away from the military’s longstanding policy of ambiguity on Israel’s operations in neighboring countries, calling it a bid to drum up political support ahead of the September 17 vote.

“Breaking ambiguity was completely unnecessary,” Gantz, a former IDF chief if staff, told the Manufacturers Association at a campaign stop in Tel Aviv. “There are things that shouldn’t be talked about and in most cases, maintaining ambiguity serves us well.”

“It’s harmful to Israel, and there is more than one way to convey messages to the other side. Not everything needs to be done through the media.”

“It’s becoming a bit of a political show, and that is not what should happen,” he added.

Israel has been unusually forthcoming about some aspects of a recent burst of military activity, including announcing airstrikes in Syria on an Iranian cell it says had been planning on sending armed drones over the border.

On Sunday, military sources confirmed that the army had deployed a ruse to fool terror group Hezbollah into thinking it had wounded soldiers during a revenge attack for that strike.

After an anti-tank missile hit an armored personnel carrier, the army dispatched a helicopter to the scene and two bleeding and bandaged soldiers were filmed being evacuated and later being rushed into Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, though an Israeli minister also said that no soldiers had been hurt.

Israel has long maintained a policy of ambiguity regarding strikes in Syria and elsewhere, in order not to invite reprisal attacks. The IDF has refused to comment on reports that it was involved in an attack involving an exploding drone in Beirut or strikes on Iran-backed militiamen in Iraq.

Critics have accused Netanyahu, who has spoken about hitting Iranian forces in many places, of endangering the country by “bragging” about some strikes in order to score political points.

“The children in the north are in shelters for one reason: Because Bibi [Netanyahu] violated the successful policy of ambiguity ahead of the elections,” Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid tweeted Sunday. “This is what happens when the prime minister plays politics at the expense of security.”

On Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to take additional measures.

“We are consulting about the next steps,” Netanyahu said. “I have ordered that we be prepared for any scenario. We will decide on the next steps pending developments.”

The burst of violence in the north came just over two weeks before the general election in Israel, with Blue and White running neck-and-neck with Netanyahu’s Likud to finish as the largest party.

On Sunday, Gantz seemingly declined to criticize Netanyahu’s handling of the flare-up with Hezbollah, tweeting that “there’s no opposition or coalition in an operation against anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel.”

Gantz, a former IDF chief, announced he would suspend his campaign in light of the security situation until the incident was clarified, but appeared to resume stumping against Netanyahu on Monday.

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