Gantz asks Gallant to ‘do what’s right’; urges Netanyahu to ‘do everything’ to advance hostage deal proposal

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Exiting the coalition, National Unity chairman Benny Gantz calls on all members of the Knesset “who understand where we are going” to join forces with him and “obey the command of your conscience,” particularly Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“Yoav, we have known each other for many years. Even when there were tensions between us, I always respected and appreciated you. In this war – I learned to appreciate you even more,” he says of his now-erstwhile war cabinet colleague.

“You are a brave and determined leader and above all – a patriot. At this time, leadership and courage are not only saying what is right – but doing what is right,” he adds.

He tells the nation he is not a conman and nor is he a politician who will put his political career above the needs of the state. “I will promise you one thing: I’m prepared to die for your children,” he says. “My colleagues and I will always stand up and be counted when the country needs us… at any political price. I risked my life for the state in the line of fire dozens of times,” he says, and vows he won’t be deterred by political risk.

Gantz also apologizes to the families of the hostages for failing to save their loved ones.

“We did a lot [but] failed when it came to results,” he says. “We haven’t been able to get many of them back home yet. The responsibility is also mine.”

Speaking a day after four hostages were rescued in a daring raid, he offers full-throated backing to a deal with Hamas to free the rest as presented by US President Joe Biden.

“I stand behind the outline we accepted in the war cabinet, whose principles were presented by President Biden, and demand from the Prime Minister the necessary courage to stand behind it and do everything to advance it,” he continues.

He adds that though he will be moving to the opposition, he will back “any responsible plan” regarding the hostages: “I also commit today, when we are in the opposition, we will support every responsible plan. We will support our fighters, Israeli society, and every right move the government will make. When we go out to demonstrate, we will do so according to the law, out of solidarity and a desire to embark on a new path, and not out of hatred. And I call on the citizens of the country who serve – keep showing up.”

He says Israel showed resilience after October 7 and proved “that we can meet any challenge.”

“If we stay strong within, we will defeat any enemy,” he says. “For that, we must investigate], choose and come together,” he concludes, referencing the imperative to probe the October 7 disaster, to hold new elections, and to unify as a nation.

Asked by a reporter whether his departure will not merely strengthen the influence of the far-right in the coalition, Gantz does not directly answer the question, but says: “I fear for the State of Israel. We know the fighting will go on for a long time… many years. So we need to choose the correct priorities, the correct [battle] fronts, the correct [military] campaigns, and the correct unity.”

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