'Only the strong survive,' new posts assert

‘Parts of Gaza sent back to Stone Age’: Gantz videos laud his IDF bona fides

In campaign clips, ex-army chief boasts how many terrorists died on his watch, also says seeking peace ‘not shameful’: Israelis shouldn’t have to tell children we ‘didn’t even try’

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

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)

Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz on Sunday 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.

The videos were released with much of the country trying to figure out where the laconic Gantz stands. They indicate that he’s positioning himself firmly in the center with a tough on terror message, but also a willingness to try and make peace.

One video takes credit for the IDF’s destruction of 6,231 Hamas targets in the 2014 Gaza war under Gantz’s command, boasting that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.”

Another shows footage from funerals of Hamas members with a counter on the screen from 0 to 1,364, the number of terrorists the IDF said it killed in Defensive Edge. It said the “three and a half years of quiet” in the Palestinian enclave in the years that followed were thanks to Gantz.

A third video showed footage of a 2012 Israeli airstrike that Gantz ordered targeting Ahmed Jabari, the acting head of Hamas’s military wing and mastermind of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping in 2012.

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

“It’s not shameful to be striving for peace,” he said in the video, which also featured images of then-prime minister Menachem Begin holding peace talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the 1970s as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting PLO leader Yasser Arafat in the 1990s.

“In another 25 years do we still want to be sending our children off to fight? No,” Gantz said. “What will we tell them? That we didn’t do anything? That we didn’t try?”

“I can’t accept that there will be a entire generation here without hope,” he said. “It can be different here.”

Gantz formally launched his Israel Resilience party late last month, but has been largely mum on his positions. Last week, he unveiled his party’s slogan, “Israel before all,” but little else after weeks of near-silence on his political platform.

Also last week, Gantz gave the first indication of his political views, breaking his silence with a vow to “fix” the controversial nation-state law to help the Druze community. He told Druze activists outside his home Rosh Ha’ayin that Israel said that amending the law would “express the connection [between the Druze community and the State of Israel], a deep and unbreakable connection not only in battle, but also in life. We have a blood pact, but more than that, we have a life alliance.”

The nation-state law enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines Israel’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze minority, whose members — many of whom serve in the Israeli army — say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz seen with Members of the Druze community and activists outside his home in Rosh HaAyin, during a protest against the ‘Jewish Nation-State law’, January 14, 2019. (Flash90)

Gantz is seen as one of the only possible threats to a Netanyahu victory in the April 9 elections. According to a poll published Saturday on Channel 12’s “Meet the Press” on Saturday, Israel Resilience would be the third-largest faction in the Knesset if elections were held this week, winning 12 seats, following a merger between Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua parties that would yield 17 Knesset seats.

Respondents were also asked whether political novice Gantz, a former chief of the military, was acting wisely by not speaking out about his plans and policies. The poll showed that 44 percent thought he should express his views, 22% thought he was right to stay silent, and 34% said they did not know.

The poll also found that the right-wing Jewish Home party, which recently saw its two main leaders, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, split off from it, would fail to clear the electoral threshold to keep its place in the Knesset.

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