Gantz: PM risking Israeli security for politics by confirming Syria strikes

Gantz: PM risking Israeli security for politics by confirming Syria strikes

Likud says Israel Resilience chief can’t take moral high ground since he deliberately endangered the lives of soldiers as IDF chief of staff

Benny Gantz speaking to Israel Resilience activists on February 13, 2019, in a photo released by the party. (Sariya Diamant)
Benny Gantz speaking to Israel Resilience activists on February 13, 2019, in a photo released by the party. (Sariya Diamant)

Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to desist from breaking Israel’s ambiguity policy regarding attacks in Syria, accusing him of putting Israel’s security at risk to gain points among voters.

“I ask and I demand — there is one thing that needs to be absolutely forbidden — harming the code of defense secrecy and boasting about secret IDF operations, which could endanger the lives of soldiers. The use of the holy of holies of our defense for campaign purposes crosses a red line and needs to stop immediately,” Gantz said in a speech to party activists.

Netanyahu on Tuesday told reporters that Israel had attacked Iran in Syria a day earlier, appearing to confirm a Syrian report of an Israeli shelling near Quneitra.

Israel generally maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding its strikes in Syria in the hopes of giving Iran and Syria an excuse not to respond, but Netanyahu has in recent weeks began to open up about Israel’s activities over the northern border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to journalists during a visit to inspect a naval Iron Dome defense system in the northern port of Haifa on February 12, 2019. (Jack Guez/Pool/AFP)

In response, the Likud party hit back at the former IDF chief, saying Gantz could not take the moral high ground as he himself had admitted to endangering the lives of soldiers to protect Palestinian civilians.

“The last person who should be preaching about this is Gantz, who himself admitted that he endangered the lives of Golani soldiers on behalf of Palestinians,” the Likud party statement read.

The comment is a reference to a 2015 speech Gantz gave in which he said the army took extra caution during an operation in Gaza to not harm civilians, even though it meant placing soldiers in more danger.

Netanyahu faced a torrent of criticism from the opposition last month for abandoning the Israeli policy of ambiguity. Legislators blamed the premier’s public confirmation of Israeli airstrikes in Syria for Russia’s call for the Jewish state to halt such actions, and claimed the prime minister’s actions were guided by political considerations.

Illustrative. This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows missiles flying into the sky near international airport, in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Israel should stop its “arbitrary” strikes in Syrian territory. It warned that such strikes encourage an “atmosphere of hostility in the region” and warned of the “possible consequences of provoking a new round of chaos in the Middle East.”

Former prime minister Ehud Barak also attacked Netanyahu for breaking with Israeli ambiguity. Barak, a former army chief who in the past served as Netanyahu’s defense minister, told Army Radio that “exposing it was completely unnecessary” and increased the chances of an “uncontrolled deterioration.”

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Flash90)

The Israel Resilience and Likud parties ratcheted up election campaigns against each other Tuesday, accusing each others’ leaders of abandoning the country’s security and supporting the uprooting of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.

Gantz, who was approved to be army chief by Netanyahu’s cabinet in 2011, is seen as the most credible rival to the prime minister and his ruling Likud party in the April 9 election.

On Monday, Netanyahu said he would not sit in a coalition with Gantz, seemingly opening the door for the stepped up broadsides.

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