Ready to bring down Netanyahu, ex-general stirs hope of change

Former Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
Updated 09 February 2019

Ready to bring down Netanyahu, ex-general stirs hope of change

  • The retired general boasts of killing Palestinian militants and aligns himself with political hard-liners

JERUSALEM: Former military chief Benny Gantz has burst onto Israel’s political scene as the great hope of the country’s shrinking “peace camp” with a message that is anything but dovish.

The retired general, who wants to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April 9 elections, boasts of killing Palestinian militants and aligns himself with political hard-liners. He fires back at Netanyahu’s criticism with scathing counterattacks.

In today’s Israel, Gantz’s ready-to-rumble rhetoric appears to be the only way to bring down the long-serving Netanyahu. That is turning him into an unlikely source of hope for Israelis who view ending their country’s rule over the Palestinians, now in its 51st year, as a priority.

Yossi Beilin, an architect of the 1993 interim peace accords with the Palestinians, said fear of another Netanyahu term is driving much of the support for Gantz. He called Gantz a “black dove” — an imperfect but tolerable alternative to Netanyahu.

“Not that I agree with everything he says, but many of the things he is saying are OK from my point of view,” Beilin said.

Opinion polls forecast victory for Netanyahu’s Likud Party. But since Gantz’s recent maiden political speech, his new “Israel Resilience” party has emerged as No. 2.

The race could swing in the challenger’s favor. Netanyahu faces possible indictment in a series of corruption investigations, perhaps before the elections. Meanwhile, Gantz is reportedly exploring mergers with other centrist parties.

Gantz appears to be modeling himself after Ehud Barak and the late Yitzhak Rabin — former military chiefs-turned-prime ministers. Both used military credentials to lead security-obsessed Israel to peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Wary of being branded a “leftist,” considered a put-down by many Israelis, Gantz has said little about his vision of peace with the Palestinians. He dresses his rhetoric in security terms as he tries to win support from Netanyahu’s nationalist base.

In his January speech, Gantz bragged about assassinating Ahmed Jabari, a former Hamas military commander whose death in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip sparked an eight-day war in 2012.

“The heads of the terrorist organizations need to know that Ahmed Jabari was not the first, nor may he be the last,” Gantz warned.

Without giving details, he vowed to “strive for peace” and — if that is impossible — to shape a “new reality.” He said he’d strengthen West Bank settlement blocs and retain control of the Jordan Valley, a strategic section of the occupied West Bank the Palestinians seek as the heartland of a future state.

The UN has said about two-thirds of more than 2,100 Palestinians killed in the 2014 war were civilians. 

 

 


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 13 min 2 sec ago

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”