Gantz’s party lashes Bennett over Qatari cash payments to Gaza
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Gantz’s party lashes Bennett over Qatari cash payments to Gaza

Israel Resilience responds after the New Right leader repeats accusation that former IDF chief of staff ‘played for a tie’ in 2014 war

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz arrives at a ceremony for incoming chief of staff Aviv Kohavi, at the IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv, on January 15, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/ Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz arrives at a ceremony for incoming chief of staff Aviv Kohavi, at the IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv, on January 15, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/ Flash90)

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s political party on Saturday hit back at Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s accusations that he settled for “a tie” in the 2014 Gaza war rather than seeking a decisive victory over the Hamas terror group.

In a statement, Gantz’s Israel Resilience party underlined the New Right leader’s approval of Qatari cash payments to Gaza, despite an uptick in violence.

“Those that surrender and hand out suitcases filled with cash to Hamas would be better off keeping quiet,” the Israel Resilience party said in a statement, echoing criticism by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman accusing Bennett, who serves on the security cabinet, of approving the payments.

Earlier, Bennett attacked the former chief of staff over the latter’s command of the IDF, repeating his accusation that that Gantz “played for a tie” rather than acting decisively to destroy tunnels dug by terrorist groups into Israel.

“Over the three weeks after I presented a plan to destroy the terror tunnels from Gaza, Benny Gantz — who is a good man but has a flawed perception — constantly tried to prevent, to drag [the army’s] feet, to stop an operation to go in and destroy the tunnels.

“If we had listened to him, we wouldn’t have gone in and destroyed thirty tunnels, and today the residents of the south of Israel would be greatly threatened,” Bennett told Hadashot, referring to the subterranean attack tunnels dug by the Hamas terror group into southern Israel.

Israeli Minister of Education Nafatli Bennett from the New Right political party on an election campaign tour in central Jerusalem, January 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“Benny Gantz is a good man, but his attitude is one of playing for a tie. I stress this is an attitude which endangers the State of Israel,” he said.

“We need to overcome our enemies decisively, not just forage for a way to end the day with quiet. I also don’t love to fight, but against a determined enemy one must overcome and not look for incentives to retreat,” Bennett added.

According to Hadashot, Bennett issued a response to the statement from Gantz’s team, saying: “A tie-seeking general who favors the lives of the enemy over the lives of Golani soldiers should keep tweeting, because he won’t know victory.”

The comment referred to a 2015 speech by Gantz, in which the former IDF chief said he took a risk during the 2014 war during an operation by Golani Brigade troops in order to protect Palestinian civilians.

The entrance of a destroyed Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel, leading from Gaza into Israel, near the southern Israeli kibbutz of Kissufim, seen on January 18, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP/POOL)

Gantz announced at the end of December that his new Israel Resilience party would field a list of candidates in the upcoming elections.

Last week Gantz released a series of campaign videos titled “Only the strong survive,” mostly highlighting successful IDF operations in the Gaza Strip during his time as chief of staff.

Despite the militaristic nature of the videos, Gantz also released a fourth campaign saying Israel needed to seriously pursue peace with the Palestinians.

A recent survey on Israelis’ preferred candidate for prime minister gave Netanyahu 41 percent to Gantz’s 38 percent in a one-on-one scenario, marking the first time in years that any potential rival has come close to Netanyahu’s figures.

Gantz will break his months of near-silence on Tuesday at the campaign launch of his party, where he is expected to outline his still-unknown positions on the key issues he will focus on, ahead of the April 9 vote.

Bennett, the former head of the religious Jewish Home party, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked split off and formed their New Right party last month, as a combined secular and religious political group.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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