Gantz swipes at Netanyahu, criticizes those creating ‘manufactured disputes’ with US

Looking to Gaza’s future, National Unity Party leader stresses Israel’s willingness to work with US and moderate Arab nations to build Gaza anew after Hamas rule is toppled

Minister Benny Gantz attends a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Minister Benny Gantz attends a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz appeared to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night, calling out those who harm Israel’s ties with the Biden administration by engaging in “manufactured disputes” amid the war against Hamas.

During a press conference in Tel Aviv, Gantz carefully avoided identifying Netanyahu by name, but he voiced similar accusations as Opposition Chairman Yair Lapid, who in comments Wednesday did make a point of calling out the premier more directly.

“The role of the leadership is to tell the public what will happen in a factual manner and strive toward [that goal] without creating manufactured disputes when our soldiers are fighting side-by-side on the battlefield,” Gantz said.

“Unfortunately, even in these very days, there are those who are engaged in creating manufactured disputes in the public domain and harming the important relations with the United States.”

The National Unity leader appeared to be referring to Netanyahu doubling down on his rhetoric against the idea of the Palestinian Authority returning to govern Gaza after the war.

Though that has been the stated goal of the Biden administration, it had also acknowledges that there will have to be a transition period before the PA is ready and that the PA will need to be “revitalized” first.

Netanyahu’s rhetoric has frustrated US efforts to rally Arab leaders to assist in post-war Gaza strategizing, US and Arab officials have told The Times of Israel.

Minister Benny Gantz during a discussion and a vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz, in his comments, acknowledged the need to work with Israel’s Arab partners to rebuild Gaza after the IDF achieves its goal of eliminating Hamas and ending its 16-year rule.

“In this war, there is no ‘day after,’ there is a long, difficult and necessary process,” he said, adding that this will take “days and months and years.”

“Hamas is part of the Iranian axis that wants to destroy us and stop normalization. We must make the opposite happen: remove the threat of Hamas, strengthen the relationship with the moderate Arab countries and build a different regional reality that will also include a framework for a solution in Gaza.”

Acknowledging that in the short term, Israel will retain security control in Gaza, Gantz added that “in the civil aspect, it would be correct to find local entities that would take care of sewage, medicine and civil issues.” This would be done, he said, “with the support of an administration that would consist of mostly moderate Arab countries,” which would work with Israel to start the normalization process and “the process of changing the reality in Gaza in the long term.”

In contrast to Netanyahu, who has pushed back against the US’s plans for Gaza, Gantz repeatedly acknowledged Washington’s role in the territory’s future and the goals and interests shared by Israel and its closest ally.

“It is clear to both us and our partners that the old concepts and the reality of the past decades, needs to change and be forward-facing. We are at the beginning of a process that will take years,” he said. “This is the time to work with our partners, in the closed room, in full trust, and also to thank them for the support and great efforts they are making to free the abductees.”

Switching to English, Gantz addressed the US directly.

“My American friends, ‘Make no mistake, we are partners by duty and friends by choice,'” he said. “‏That is what my friend General Martin Dempsey once told me. ‏These words are more meaningful now than ever. Israel is thankful for your continued support during these difficult times.”

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz meets with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Tel Aviv on December 14, 2023. (Benny Gantz/X)

Returning to Hebrew, Gantz addressed Israel’s citizens, again appearing to take a swipe at Netanyahu’s leadership and the behavior of his government.

“The most important thing at this time is to win the war and maintain Israel’s security,” he said. “To this end, the unity of the people, the spirit backing the soldiers, the return of the hostages, and making the right decisions at the military and political levels are important.”

“My friends and I will continue to act with national responsibility, we will back the soldiers and commanders, we will make sure that the right and difficult decisions are made, we will deal with the rehabilitation of the settlements and we will act solely for the interests of the people of Israel.”

Gantz has been a vocal opponent of the current government since its founding and only entered it temporarily in October to help steer the war after Hamas’s devastating attack on Israel.

His popularity has soared in recent weeks: While the National Unity Party currently holds just 12 seats, polls have shown that he could win as many as 43 seats if elections were held now.

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