Gantz full text: I aim to form a national, patriotic, broad government in days
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Gantz full text: I aim to form a national, patriotic, broad government in days

Tasked with building a coalition, Blue and White leader vows to heal Israeli society ‘from the effects of the coronavirus epidemic, and the epidemic of divisiveness and hate’

President Reuven Rivlin (R) tasks Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz with forming a government in a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 16, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin (R) tasks Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz with forming a government in a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 16, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The following is the official English translation of Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz’s speech at the President’s Residence on March 16, after he was charged with forming a government:

Mr. President.

My fellow Israelis.

These are unusual times. Unlike any other we’ve experienced.

Israel is at the onset of severe crisis.

At these very moments, hundreds of thousands of families are drawn in their homes. Mothers and fathers have been propelled into distress by a mysterious virus, attempting to protect their children and themselves. Some have already lost their jobs and sources of livelihood, and some may face that circumstance shortly.

Grandparents are finding themselves in elective quarantine, hoping to protect their very lives, while the loneliness – never easy – becomes more difficult than ever.

And, of course, medical teams are heroically and selflessly enlisting to save lives, displaying courage that is inspiring to us all. These people – doctors, nurses, Jews and Arabs – stand together, united as one.

*****

Times like these call for leaders to put their personal considerations aside.

I give you my word: I will do everything to form a government – national, patriotic, and as broad as possible — in a matter of days, as few days as possible.

A government in which I will represent and serve people who voted for Blue and White, people who voted for Likud, and people who voted for every other party, both right and left.

I will serve all of Israel’s citizens.

A government in which I will protect the interests of the people of Judea and Samaria, along with the interests of Israel’s Arab citizens, of the people of Israel’s social and geographic periphery, and the people of central Israel.

I will lead the government in healing Israeli society from the effects of the coronavirus epidemic, as well as from the epidemic of divisiveness and hate.

Our dedicated, courageous doctors will help beat the coronavirus. As will all of our joint efforts and responsible conduct. But to beat the hate and divisiveness, we need leaders who put the best interest of the country and the people above their own personal needs.

*****

Since the coronavirus outbreak, I have been silent.

I haven’t called bombastic press conferences, and I have refused to succumb to demands to attack the prime minister and his ministers, although others in my position may have chosen otherwise.

The Israeli public has had enough of hate, divisiveness and uncertainty. And so have I.

Every one of you, whether at home, in quarantine, or at a mostly empty workplace, is looking to our national leadership at this time.

You expect your leadership, and expect me personally, to get Israel out of paralysis, to do the right thing at this exceptional time, to pull together, and put Israel first.

*****

The coronavirus crisis is not the most severe crisis in our country’s history.

We have weathered existential crises, we have weathered painful crises, and we have gotten through all of them, together.

Jewish history, and Israeli history, abounds with examples of us coming together, reinforcing our social bonds and sense of collective responsibility, and rejecting forces that have tried to tear at our sense of unity and the common fate all Israelis share. And I stress – all Israelis.

When the state was being founded, the different paramilitary organizations put their disagreements aside to fight shoulder to shoulder in the IDF.

And even in moments of crisis, after the painful Altalena episode, it was Menachem Begin who said to his supporters: “We won’t open fire, there won’t be a civil war while the enemy is at the gate.” I won’t allow a civil war here either, ever.

We got through the tough physical conditions of food rationing after the state was founded – and we did so together.

We got through the economic recession and years of inflation in the 1980s – together.

In the throes of the global economic crisis in 2008 – we stood together.

Facing external enemies – during the bloody Yom Kippur War, during the Gulf War, which sent the whole country into safe rooms, and in many IDF operations since – the Israeli spirit has always prevailed. Together.

*****

I would like to suggest to our decision-makers that they avoid spiraling into panic, and refrain from whipping the public into unnecessary hysteria.

We need to manage this crisis calmly, and impart a sense of composure and security.

We will get through this crisis, through pointed and wise medical and economic intervention. We will study the models that have been effective in other countries and, most importantly, we will make sure that hospitals are equipped with sufficient examination kits and ventilators.

I am truly hopeful that the reports of unprotected medical teams, and of shortages of examination kits are just a rumor and not the result of organizational management failure.

Later on, there will be time to look at this crisis and draw conclusions, and consider the urgent imperative to rehabilitate the public health system in Israel.

Right now, Israel needs an operational national public service to help guide citizens through this crisis wisely. It also needs a permanent police commissioner, and a functional parliament and cabinet.

We simply cannot allow a fourth rounds of elections, which would be critically damaging to the Israeli people at this juncture.

Elections would make it impossible to assist businesses that have suffered, students that have been taken away from their studies, employees that have been laid off, and countless independents who have no sense of what the future holds for them.

*****

Mr. President,

I would like to thank you personally for the deep sense of concern you clearly hold for Israeli society. And I further wish to thank the majority of members of Knesset who recommended me as their candidate to assemble the next government.

Unfortunately, along the way there were overtly racist statements, threats, and the voicing of opinions that point to cause for profound concern that Israeli democracy is in jeopardy.

There were further illegitimate attempts by the current prime minister to try to evade just trial, while turning on Israel’s national institutions.

No one person is greater than this nation. And no one person is greater than the Zionist and Israeli project.

Leaders who try to inflict harm on the Jewish and democratic regime in Israel will invariably bring upon the end of their political and public life, and history will not be forgiving toward them.

The State of Israel is a tapestry of many tribes, from regular service and reserve soldiers, to teachers and doctors, to factory workers and public clerks – many of whom would stand firm and resolute in the face of any attempt to turn Israeli democracy into a dictatorship.

Zionism and tyranny cannot coexist.

*****

In the spirit of the times, I extend my elbow here to all party leaders, including Benjamin Netanyahu, and urge them to put their destructive verbal arsenal, and the senseless hate aside.

I call upon them to join me and the rest of my party, who are united in purpose: to help this country heal.

I have always wanted unity. But not unity that comes at the expense of democratic values and the dignity and decorum we wish for our country.

The time has come for all party heads, and for Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, to determine whether they are prepared to join me on this path.

The time has come for fewer empty words, and more inspired action.

The time has come to put aside the exclusion and the warfare.

And to reconnect the severed fragments of our many tribes and citizens of Israel.

We will come out on top of the coronavirus.

We will come out on top of the hate.

We have not lost hope. Od lo avda tikvateinu.

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