Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party issued a “clarification” Friday on remarks by a member of an allied party that West Bank settlement construction would not drop below its current pace under a Gantz-led government.
Zvi Hauser, a member of the Telem Party and a former cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in an interview published Friday that Gantz “would not build less” than the current premier.
He also said Telem would work to advance new settlement construction throughout the West Bank “beyond what is being done today.”
“Israel Resilience will work to defend the security interests of Israel, won’t freeze settlement [building] and peoples’ lives in a sweeping manner like Netanyahu does,” Gantz’s party said in a statement.
It also stressed that a government it leads “won’t build in a wild manner in order to thwart diplomatic opportunities and will strive with regional countries and leader.”
“We’ll act according to security needs and not according to labels of left and right,” the party added.
Telem, which is led by former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, is running on a joint slate with Israel Resilience in April’s Knesset elections.
While Gantz has stated his commitment to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Ya’alon opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and earlier this week said settlement construction should continue throughout the West Bank.
Hauser was one of a number of top candidates announced by Gantz and Ya’alon on Thursday for their joint electoral list. Also running for Telem is Yoaz Hendel, a newspaper columnist and head of the Institute for Zionist Strategies think tank who previously served as a senior aide to Netanyahu.
Israel Resilience is regarded as the biggest challenger to Netanyahu’s Likud, which has continually branded the retired general as left-wing.
Gantz, who has sought to build a centrist ticket, has avoided defining himself as either right or left, telling Yedioth in an interview that “the central question is always the security question” and that he is focused on “bringing people with different beliefs and opinions together.”
In the interview, which was released in full on Friday, Gantz was also asked about the removal of settlements located outside the so-called blocs and whether he would unilaterally pull out of areas of the West Bank if negotiations with the Palestinians flounder.
“I said I’m not waiting,” Gantz added. “I didn’t say it would be unilateral and I don’t mean that it will be unilateral. We will do something constructive. Up until now, my profession has been to destroy, now my role is to build. I will not wait, I will build.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Gantz seemed to praise the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, saying: “It was a legal action. It was approved by the government of Israel and carried out by the IDF and the settlers, with great pain but done very well. We have to take its lessons and implement them in other places.”
Those remarks, which were first published Wednesday, were denounced by right-wing parties and set off a round of mutual finger-pointing over who had supported Israel’s evacuation of all settlements and military positions from Gaza at the time.