Benny Gantz, head of the newly minted Israel Resilience Party, is due to give his first major address on Tuesday night. We received a draft of his speech:
Citizens of Israel. [Note to set designer: Place large Israeli flags on either side of the podium by the side of the speaker, hire 20 enthusiastic flag wavers at the front of the audience – students are best suited for this kind of work and cost only the minimum hourly wage. Make sure they are not too “white.” For the video photo montage running behind the speaker, 75% of the photos should be action shots of the speaker in his IDF chief-of-staff uniform surrounded by soldiers; take special care that Ehud Barak, even though he was the defense minister who appointed the speaker to this position, does not appear in any of the images.]
I served this country as a soldier for almost 40 years. I was privileged to do so, and never imagined that once I hung up my dress uniform for the last time and stored my red paratrooper’s boots in a cupboard in the basement, I’d again be called back to the flag. But these are desperate times, and I cannot, in all good conscience, just sit by the sidelines and watch the moral fabric of our great society unravel.
When planning a military operation, the goal is always victory. And the same should be true for a political campaign. I haven’t established a new party, enlisted hundreds of volunteers and suddenly taken to social media just so that I can be the country’s next defense minister. With all due modesty, if that was my aim, there are easier ways for me to achieve it. In fact, one phone call to Balfour Street would do it.
No, I’m standing before you tonight to declare that, together, we are going to change the country, unite instead of divide, introduce civility instead of hatred, and put a smile back on the nation’s face. [Note to campaign chief: Do we really want to promise this? Remember the last ex-chief of staff to talk about restoring the nation’s smile? He ended up after the elections as tourism minister.]
As IDF chief of staff, I served all of my tenure under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. And I have no complaints. Aside from his and Ehud Barak’s reckless plan to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear program, which I, along with the other heads of the security establishment, succeeded in preventing, I found Netanyahu then to be a pragmatic and sensible leader.
He released over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists to secure the release of Gilad Schalit, ensured that his fellow politicians did not turn Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, which I successfully led, into a full-scale ground war, and avoided any large-scale conflagrations in Lebanon.
But that was then. Today, with the threat of an indictment for bribery hanging over him, Netanyahu is a changed man. All he cares about is remaining in power, to prevent, somehow, the inevitable arm of the law reaching out to him and bringing him to justice.
For many years, under a policy I launched, Israel conducted below-the-radar attacks against Iran in Syria to stop Tehran’s attempts to beef up Hezbollah in Lebanon and establish a military presence in Syria. By not taking credit publicly for these attacks, we gave Syria and Iran the option of not responding, thereby potentially saving Israeli lives. Suddenly, three months before the election, the prime minister has decided it’s now time to brag about the IDF’s actions. The result: an Iranian surface-to-surface missile fired toward the Hermon area from Syria last week.
On the civilian front, the prime minister’s attacks on the police and the legal establishment, as well as his relentless campaign against the media, the watchdog of democracy, go to prove that Netanyahu was right when he told Ehud Olmert that a prime minister “sunk up to his neck in interrogations” could not govern properly.
Tonight, I commit to you and to all the people of Israel that I will not serve in a Netanyahu-led government, should, despite all his obvious failings, the prime minister be again tasked with forming a coalition following the elections.
I call on all the parties in the Center and on the Center-Left to join together in one bloc so that we can offer the great Israeli public new hope on polling day. As a true servant of the country, I don’t care who will lead this new bloc – we can run an in-depth survey to see which one of us will bring the most votes. The only task before us is to remove Netanyahu from power and put this country back on a tolerant, inclusive path for all its citizens. This is what duty calls.
[Note to campaign manager: Does the speaker really want to commit to not serving under Netanyahu? Perhaps serving as defense minister in the next government isn’t such a bad option? After all, who knows how long Netanyahu will last if charges are finally brought against him? Suggest we prepare an alternative, vague ending, just calling for “those with Israel’s best interest at heart to vote for me.”]
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.
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