Year-old interview surfaces with dark horse of 2019 election

In first political comments, Gantz says certain settlements to remain ‘forever’

In newly released clips from 2018 interview, former IDF chief says he is most concerned by ‘fragmentation’ of Israeli society and the ‘radicalization’ of domestic politics

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Israel Resilience Party chairman Benny Gantz speaks to Hadashot news in a February 2018  interview aired for the first time on January 3, 2019. (Screen capture/Hadashot news)
Israel Resilience Party chairman Benny Gantz speaks to Hadashot news in a February 2018 interview aired for the first time on January 3, 2019. (Screen capture/Hadashot news)

After a long period in which public knowledge of his political views remained scant, a clip from an interview released Thursday shows former IDF chief of staff and chairman of the new Israel Resilience Party Benny Gantz offering a taste of what his vision for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might look like.

In the Channel 12 interview — which he gave last February, but was broadcast Thursday for the first time — Gantz said settlements like “the Etzion bloc, Ariel, Ofra and Elkana will remain forever.”

“But [the question is] how we arrange that they will remain forever,” Gantz added.

It was not immediately clear why Gantz chose those four names. While the Etzion bloc, comprising over 20 communities southeast of Jerusalem, and Elkana east of Kfar Saba are both largely inside the consensus for coming under Israeli sovereignty in a future permanent accord, Ofra is located in the heart of the West Bank. Ariel, a northern West Bank city with a population of some 20,000, is also considered by many Israelis to be sure to become part of the sovereign Jewish state, but it is also over ten miles east of the pre-1967 Green Line.

New prefabricated homes are seen under construction in the West Bank between the Israeli outpost of Amona and the settlement of Ofra (background), north of Ramallah, on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The former IDF chief said what most concerns him about the current state of Israeli society “is its fragmentation, its radicalization.”

“Not necessarily [between] right-left, which is not our big story here, but more one against the other,” he explained.

Gantz was also asked to comment on a speech he gave as IDF chief of staff during the 2014 Gaza War in which he sought to calm residents of the south and encouraged those who had left their homes amid the rocket fire to return. Just days later, however, an intense barrage hit those communities and the ensuing period of the war saw both soldiers and civilians killed.

The former army chief stood by the content of the speech, but admitted having “slipped” with regards to the time and the place of the comments.

“I wanted to strengthen the residents of the Gaza border communities,” he explained.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visits near the border with the Gaza Strip, on July 26, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

He said he has not “run away from responsibility” for his words and pointed out that the general gist of what he said had come true: a significant period of quiet was achieved in the south following the war.

Gantz unveiled his new political party last week. He has emerged as a dark horse candidate as the election campaign kicks off, with many polls showing his Israel Resilience party coming in second behind the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netantyahu, and Gantz as the second most popular choice for prime minister after Netanyahu.

While Netanyahu has described him as a leftist, Gantz has yet to set out his political platform.

Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a cabinet meeting in November 2012 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash 90)

The Haaretz daily reported that Gantz will deliver a major address next Thursday in which he will reveal his views on key issues and share what brought him to make the decision to step into the political arena.

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