In campaign stunt, Gantz releases personal phone numbers of Netanyahu, Likud MKs

In campaign stunt, Gantz releases personal phone numbers of Netanyahu, Likud MKs

Israel Resilience party urges supporters to send messages to lawmakers and candidates criticizing Israel allowing Qatar to make cash payments to Hamas

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on a cellphone during a Knesset session on June 5, 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on a cellphone during a Knesset session on June 5, 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ramping up its new election campaign highlighting ostensible failures of the government, Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party on Tuesday released the personal phone numbers of Likud Knesset members, ministers and the prime minister, calling for supporters to send them messages criticizing the decision to allow Qatari cash payments to Gaza.

The party published a campaign video, one of them taking aim at the government decision to allow monthly payments from Qatar of $15 million to be transferred via Israeli territory in exchange for relative calm on the Gaza border.

But taking the campaign a step further than other parties have so far in the run-up to April’s election, the party also provided a link to enable sending the video to personal phone numbers for the top 30 candidates running on the Likud slate, including incumbent MKs and ministers and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When clicking on the link, users are shown the phone number and given the option to send a WhatsApp message with the video.

The Facebook post was later updated to removed the number listed for Netanyahu.

The Likud party said it was looking into the matter.

The 53-second clip, titled”Netanyahu pays Hamas. Our children are in bomb shelters,” shows footage of rockets being launched from Gaza and landing in Israel, Israeli fields set alight by incendiary balloons, houses damaged by rocket fire and Israeli citizens running for cover, all as a counter on the screen whizzes up from 0 to 15 million.

“Netanyahu pays Hamas murderers 15 million dollars every month, and we get hundreds of rockets on residents of the south, tens of thousands of square kilometers burned, hundreds of incendiary kites and balloons, tens of thousands of children in bomb shelters,” the text on the video says at the end of the count as dramatic music plays.

“We will not pay protection money to Hamas. We will not abandon residents of the south,” the video promises.

The post urges the public to send the video to the candidates “so that they will halt the protection money to Hamas.”

The Times of Israel determined that most of the links provide a direct and active phone number for the candidates and lawmakers, though some open a conversation with their aides. A spokesperson for Israel Resilience said that the post included the real phone numbers of the legislators “so that the public could contact them directly.”

Screenshots of an Israel Resilience Facebook post providing links to the phone numbers of every candidate on the Likud slate (R), and a Whatsapp conversation with a minister accessed via the post. (Courtesy)

The Times of Israel messaged the later-removed number listed as Netanyahu’s asking if he objected to his political rival sharing his personal contact details with the public. The message went unanswered.

Two other videos were posted Tuesday by Israel Resilience.

In one video titled “Netanyahu expels Jews by force,” heart-rending footage of families and children crying as they are pulled from their homes during the 2015 Disengagement from the Gaza Strip is juxtapositioned with photos of current Likud ministers who were involved in the operation, either as IDF personnel or as politicians. Netanyahu is heard voting in favor of the plan when he was a minister,  before he resigned from the government ahead of the operation’s implementation.

Gantz recently drew ire for appearing in an interview to praise the Disengagement and saying that its lessons should be implemented elsewhere. The comment sparked a flurry of rebukes from right-wing parties, with Likud declaring that Gantz was admitting he had plans to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank, a claim that another excerpt from the same interview refuted.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz delivers his first electoral speech in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on January 29, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A final video released Tuesday claimed that while “Netanyahu focuses on himself, Gantz will focus on you,” and features edited segments of the Israel Resilience party chairman’s maiden political speech in which he declared his commitment to work for social equality.

The attacks on Likud came hours after Netanyahu posted a video on his own Facebook page accusing Gantz of being backed by left-wingers and planning to block Netanyahu from remaining prime minister after the April election by creating a union with the United (Arab) List.

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