Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Friday denied a report that he was being treated by a psychologist after a columnist claimed he saw a therapist following his retirement from the military. His party said it would sue the journalist who made the claim.
“I am not undergoing any mental health treatment. I’m totally fine. I have been exposed to far greater stresses than all these stories they are alleging,” Gantz told Channel 12 in an excerpt from an interview to be broadcast Saturday.
“The only thing I have had is an organizational consultant who has accompanied me in the last three years in my organizational and business practices,” he said.
The allegations came amid a campaign by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to portray Gantz as mentally unstable.
In the interview, Gantz also hit back at Netanyahu, accusing him of using state secrets to his own benefit.
“It doesn’t surprise me in the current political distress that the prime minister finds himself in. He is taking secret material of the State of Israel, internal dialogues of the State of Israel, distorting them and using them for his political needs,” he said when asked about a report that he had once protested against carrying out a military operation ordered by Netanyahu and the defense minister when he was army chief of staff.
The Blue and White party also said that it planned to sue journalist Ben Caspit over his Friday column in the Maariv daily, calling the report “a crude and blatant lie that political opponents are trying to nurture.”
In his column, Caspit claimed that Gantz was treated by a psychologist on a regular basis for a period of two or three years after the former chief of staff completed his term in 2015.
The report came days after the Likud party launched a series of campaign ads that sought to portray Gantz as mentally unstable.
The spots that aired online claimed that “Benny Gantz has lost it.”
Likud also aired an edited clip from a recent interview in which Gantz stuttered several times and another clip that repeatedly zooms in on his eyes with an accompanying horror movie soundtrack with the accompanying caption: “Completely stable.”
The campaign ad 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.
Gantz, who is Netanyahu’s main challenger in the upcoming elections, has been losing ground in recent days after reports that his cellphone was hacked by the Iranians. Likud has tried to use the hack 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 first began implying Gantz was not sound after he was heard in a recorded conversation making accusations about Netanyahu.
“If (Netanyahu) had a way that I would be harmed, that they would kill me, he would do it,” Gantz said in one recording, 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.
Recent polls have showed Likud gaining ground on Gantz, whose Blue and White had nosed ahead of Likud earlier in the campaign.
A Channel 13 poll published Thursday showed Likud and Blue and White both winning 30 seats in the upcoming elections on April 9, with Netanyahu better placed to form a coalition.