Ya’alon calls for unity bloc to run against Netanyahu, defends Gantz

Former Likud defense minister says parties must unite to defeat PM, rebuffs Gallant’s attack on Israel Resilience leader

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks in Haifa on December 29, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks in Haifa on December 29, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Former defense minister and head of the newly formed Telem party Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday pledged to unite with at least one other party to defeat the ruling Likud-led coalition, before defending Israel Resilience party head Benny Gantz who has faced a series of attacks from Likud ministers.

“My goal is to create a bloc that will replace the government and bring the State of Israel back on the right track,” Ya’alon told the audience at a cultural event in Tel Aviv. “I will leave my ego outside the room,” he vowed.

“I believe that more than two parties should join together and stick to the priorities of what is important. I believe that the internal threat is the most important thing at the moment for the future of the state,” Ya’alon added, before stressing that he would not join a coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hadashot reported.

Ya’alon was also asked about the possibility of uniting with Gantz’s party ahead of April’s elections, the Ynet news site reported.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz attends a farewell ceremony for outgoing Israeli chief of Police Roni Alsheich, in Beit Shemesh, on November 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Not everyone agrees on everything 100 percent, but we can find an agreed order of priorities and a common language. It’s not a matter of Left or Right,” Ya’alon replied.

“I’m the most experienced candidate, but whether it’s to be number one or to help as number two, I have a burning desire to help the state, and I’ll do what’s needed,” he said.

When asked about the attacks on Gantz, who commanded the military when he was defense minister, Ya’alon defended the Israel Resilience party chief.

“These are lies that are being spread, just plain slanders. He did not collapse during the 2014 Gaza war, and his wife does not work at Machsom Watch,” Ya’alon said, referring to a long-refuted rumor about Gantz’s wife and the left-wing advocacy group that campaigns against Israel’s control over the West Bank and monitors Israeli security forces’ behavior at checkpoints and roadblocks.

Ya’alon was also asked directly about Kulanu-turned-Likud minister Yoav Gallant’s statement last week that Gantz has been silent since launching his party because he has “nothing to say.”

“I think he knows why he’s being silent. I also know why he’s being silent and thousands of officers who served under our command know why he’s being silent,” Gallant said at the time. “When you have nothing to say, you don’t talk.”

Gantz was chosen for the chief of staff position in 2011 after Gallant’s candidacy was rejected when questions arose over his appropriation of public lands for the construction of his home in the northern village of Amikam.

“I raised many officers in the IDF. Some of them maintained the right path of integrity, and some did not,” Ya’alon said in response.

Gantz has faced a series of attacks from the Likud and New Right politicians since he founded his party last month. The attacks have disparaged him as a “closet leftist” and questioned his military bona fides, particularly in relation to the 2014 war with Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, center, and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, right, in southern Israel on July 21, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Ya’alon, a hawkish former Likud minister who entered politics after serving as IDF chief of staff, officially registered his new political party earlier this month after long promising to challenge Netanyahu since he was ousted from the Defense Ministry in 2016 by the prime minister, to be replaced by Avigdor Liberman.

Ya’alon quit the ruling Likud party and the Knesset shortly thereafter, and has since frequently criticized Netanyahu and indicated he would return to politics to run against him.

He has in the past cited Israel’s economic and social woes, including racism and sexism, as issues he would seek to address in a leadership position.

Though recent polls have indicated Ya’alon would fail to clear the minimum vote threshold needed to enter the Knesset, reports have said he is in talks with Gantz to form an electoral alliance, with the latter doing well in the polls.

Gantz has been largely mum on his political views and has not commented on whether he would join a Netanyahu-led government.

A recent Channel 10 poll found that when presented with a choice between the two as the preferred candidate for prime minister, 41 percent of the public chose Netanyahu while 38% picked Gantz. Twenty-one percent were undecided.

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