Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is joint leader of the freshly formed New Right party, on Sunday attacked two key rivals, Benny Gantz and MK Yair Lapid, describing them as “fake right” leftists in disguise.
Her attack on Gantz came hours after Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, from the Likud, referred to long-denied rumors that Gantz’s wife has been involved in a left-wing women’s group which monitors IDF soldiers at West Bank checkpoints.
Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, recently set up the Israel Resilience Party to run in the coming elections. Lapid is leader of the Yesh Atid party which has 11 seats in the Knesset. Yesh Atid has positioned itself as centrist; Gantz has yet to make any public statements about his political stance since forming his new party.
His party currently fares better than all other parties barring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in opinion polls, with projections of winning around 14 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Likud is expected to win around 30.
Speaking at a diplomacy and foreign relations forum in Caesarea, Shaked said that because recent opinion polls are showing that the right bloc is doing better than the left, Gantz and Lapid are also trying to appear right-wing — by fronting “left-wing parties in disguise.”
“There is no need for disguises; everyone should say simply and clearly what their ideology is and then let the public decide,” she said.
Last month Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that they were splitting away from the national-religious Jewish Home party to form their own party, the New Right, to be led jointly by both of them.
“The political battle in this elections will be between the New Right led by Shaked and Bennett and the new left of Gantz,” she said Sunday. “We will beat him.”
Earlier Science Minister Akunis also claimed that Gantz has “hidden leftist positions.”
Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster, Akunis referred to a claim that Gantz’s wife, Revital, had participated in events by Machsom Watch, the women’s group which monitors the activities of IDF soldiers manning checkpoints in the West Bank, often filming any alleged human rights abuses.
Akunis reasoned that the activities of Gantz’s wife are relevant because a person’s home life has a strong influence on their decision-making.
According to Haaretz, the claim about Revital Gantz has been circulating since 2015.
In January 2018, during an online question and answer session (which was re-broadcast by Israeli TV news on Sunday night), Benny Gantz denied it. “She has never been to any kind of demonstration about the subject in her entire life,” he said.
“All the more so, in her life, she would not do anything that has even a hint of harming IDF soldiers in any way, to disturb them in the duties, to make a political protest at their expense.”
“It is fake news,” Gantz said. “A classic example.”
Shaked also commented on remarks by Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev who said earlier in the day that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is “trying to join the chorus that aims to topple” the prime minister with a looming announcement of possible graft indictments ahead of the April 9 elections.
“The ministers worked with him over the years and I am sure everyone would agree with that he is a straight man, professional and responsible, and I trust his judgement,” said Shaked who is also Justice minister.
Regev was responding to reports Mandelblit will announce next month whether to indict the Netanyahu.
The prime minister has accused the left, the media and the police of pursuing a witch hunt and political vendetta designed to oust him.
The Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted a source in the attorney general’s office as saying that Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision on a possible indictment, subject to a hearing, in February, buttressing earlier reports.
Mandelblit has refused to publicly comment on the timeline for his decision.
Netanyahu has repeated several times in recent days that it would be wrong for Mandelblit to initiate the indictment-hearing process, since it could not be completed before the elections, and therefore would ostensibly skew the vote. On Saturday night, he issued a video comparing his potential plight to that of a thief who has his arm cut off after a court verdict in a Middle Eastern country, and is cleared on appeal — too late for the lost arm. The prime minister’s opposition critics have noted that it was Netanyahu who called elections in April, seven months ahead of schedule.
Netanyahu has vowed not to step down if Mandelblit announces that he intends to indict him, pending a hearing, in any of the cases against him, asserting that the law does not require him to do so. Mandelblit has confirmed this. Justice Ministry officials have said, however, that Netanyahu would have a “problem” if he sought to stay in office were a formal, final indictment subsequently filed at the completion of the hearing process.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits and gifts worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors. Some reports have suggested that Mandelblit is leaning toward a charge of breach of trust in that case.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble rival daily Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. Some reports have suggested that Mandelblit may close the case; Channel 10, by contrast, asserted Friday that state prosecutors are leaning toward a bribery charge.
In Case 4000, reportedly the most serious of the three, Netanyahu is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.