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September 5, 2019 3:34 pm

Gantz: US-Israel Mutual Defense Pact Would Be Mistake

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Benny Gantz. Photo: Reuters / Corinna Kern.

Israeli prime ministerial candidate Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, expressed opposition on Thursday to the idea of a US-Israel mutual defense pact, calling it “a serious mistake.”

Such a pact has been quietly floated as a possibility in recent weeks, given the closeness of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to US President Donald Trump and joint US-Israel efforts against Iran.

“Such an agreement would be a serious mistake for the State of Israel’s security,” Gantz told the audience at a conference organized by Israel’s Channel 12, “because a mutual defense treaty requires us to coordinate our security with the United States.”

“This is not what we want,” said Gantz. “We haven’t asked anyone to be killed for our sakes, we haven’t asked anyone to fight for us, and we haven’t asked anyone for the right to defend the State of Israel.”

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Meanwhile, poll results published on Thursday by the Israeli news site Mako showed that Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White parties were running dead even, with 32 Knesset seats apiece, ahead of the upcoming elections on Sept. 17.

Such a result would leave Netanyahu without a governing majority. The right-wing bloc of parties expected to recommend Netanyahu for prime minister has 56 seats, while Gantz’s center-left bloc has 45 seats.

The wild cards are the Joint Arab List, which might recommend no one and is very unlikely to join a government; and Yisrael Beiteinu, whose leader Avigdor Lieberman’s refusal to join up with Netanyahu after April’s elections triggered the new vote.

Lieberman has said that he wants a national unity government with Likud and Blue and White that excludes ultra-Orthodox parties. He has not made a commitment regarding who he will recommend to form a government.

At the Channel 12 conference, Gantz hinted that Likud officials have sent feelers out to discuss a possible post-Netanyahu era, in which the prime minister either loses the election outright or again proves unable to form a government.

“Everyone talks with everyone about everything,” Gantz said. “There is an understanding that the Likud is not Netanyahu. I am speaking with people in the Likud.”

“There is a conversation inside the Likud that knows the Netanyahu era has reached its end,” he added. “They need to pick up the pieces and sing the next song, and that’s what they’re going to do.”

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