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March 25, 2019 12:17 pm

Netanyahu Challenger Benny Gantz Calls for Unity at AIPAC Conference, Endorses Acceptance of All Denominations of Judaism

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White Party, in Tel Aviv on Feb. 19, 2019. Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Former IDF chief of staff and head of Israel’s opposition Blue and White party Benny Gantz emphasized unity and acceptance of all denominations of Judaism during a speech to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington D.C. on Monday.

“Our people live for hope,” Gantz said. “If we want hope, we must have unity. If we want security, we must have unity, and throughout history, the only way we have won is by being united. Unity is our past, and unity must be our future.”

“As a former IDF chief of staff and a future leader of Israel, I know the secret of our strength,” he continued. “It is based on our ability to stay together. Unity — that is the secret weapon of the Jewish nation.”

However, Gantz said, “Our ability to stand together should not be taken for granted.”

“Let me tell you, my friends,” he warned, “the divisive dialogue is tearing us and tearing our nation apart. It may serve — I doubt it — but it may serve political purposes. But it is shredding the fabric that holds us together.”

Remarking on his own family history as the son of a Holocaust survivor, Gantz advocated the acceptance of all streams of Judaism, saying, “In Bergen-Belsen, no one asked who is Reform and who is Conservative, who is Orthodox and who is secular. Before going into battle, I never checked to see who had a kippa under their helmets.”

Gantz also endorsed the creation of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, saying, “As a proud owner of the red beret worn by the liberators of the Kotel, I can tell you with confidence that the Western Wall is long enough to accommodate everyone. Everyone.”

In addition, he commented on the missile attack earlier on Monday on the central Israeli town of Mishmeret, which destroyed a house and injured seven.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family whose home was attacked by a rocket this morning in Israel,” Gantz said. “The strong, resilient people of our nation are attacked yet again, forced to live with these constant reminders of our enemies’ hate and unwillingness for change.”

“This hate, this misery, is all they live for,” he asserted.

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