Eagerness to see the end of the sinister and bloody legacy of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu may blind some from understanding that the future policies of his main rival, Benny Gantz, do not necessarily signal a paradigm shift in Israel.
Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel’s newly-founded Kahol Lavan — the Blue and White party — is the rising star of Israeli politics. The fact that he has the opportunity to finally oust long-serving Netanyahu, speaks volumes about the appeal of his political message, his charisma, and his growing credibility among many social sectors in Israel.
However, the difference between Gantz and Netanyahu is hardly distinguishable; both are warmongers and neither has a plan to achieve a just peace, or even the faintest desire to find one.
As a former chief of general staff of the Israeli army, Gantz orchestrated the destructive war on the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014. Despite the heavy death toll, he showed no remorse. Instead, in an election campaign video clip in January 2019, he boasted about sending “parts of Gaza back to the Stone Age”.
Working hand in hand with the Netanyahu-led right wing government, Gantz oversaw the systematic annihilation of the besieged Gaza region, which resulted in the deaths of over 2,200 Palestinians and the destruction of 18,000 housing units.
Despite his violent rhetoric, Gantz failed to achieve the needed votes to form a government in the April 2019 elections. Subsequently, Netanyahu, too, failed to unify the ranks of his right wing coalition which ultimately led to holding yet another general election in September.
To bolster his image as a strong Israeli leader, worthy of the people’s trust, Gantz upped his promises, pledging, in August, that the next round of war against Gaza will be the “final round”.
“We do not intend to let deterrence continue to be eroded; we do not intend to allow this model of another round and another round and another kite and another missile and another thing to continue,” Gantz said during a visit to the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.
“The next time something happens here, we will make sure that it’s the final round,” he said.
It could be argued that Gantz’s violent attitude towards Palestinians is simply equal to that of Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. However, one important difference makes Gantz even more dangerous. If the former general becomes Israel’s prime minister, he would take office with so much to prove, a reputation to uphold, and numerous violent promises to fulfil
Now that Gantz is in the throes of government formation, he is desperate to win the support of as many members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) as possible. Expectedly, Gantz unleashed his political venom on Gaza, yet again.
“A government led by me will not bear a threat against the residents in the south and will not accept undermining Israel’s sovereignty,” he wrote on Twitter on November 2. “We will return deterrence with any cost, even if we are obliged to kill those who lead the escalations.”
It could be argued that Gantz’s violent attitude towards Palestinians is simply equal to that of Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. However, one important difference makes Gantz even more dangerous. If the former general becomes Israel’s prime minister, he would take office with so much to prove, a reputation to uphold, and numerous violent promises to fulfil.
In fact, Gantz is likely to arrive on the political scene with a vengeance; after all, he has already accused Netanyahu of being too “weak” on Gaza.
“People who are weak in front of Hamas in Gaza might bring a wave of horror to the West Bank,” Gantz said in August, referring to Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
Imagine, Netanyahu, who was responsible for the highest death toll in any war launched against Gaza since 1967, is considered, per Gantz’s reasoning, “weak”. One can only guess what such an ominous statement means in practice.
The truth is, regardless of who rules Israel next, war on Gaza seems imminent: A Gantz-led government is likely to try to appease Israel’s war-hungry constituency, while a Netanyahu-led government would naturally want to assert itself and prove that, unlike repeated accusations, it is not “weak”. And, finally, a joint-government coalition is likely to present to Palestinians and the entire region a two-headed monster, combining all of Israel’s violent forces into a perfect war storm.
It must certainly be satisfying for many to see war-criminal Netanyahu exiting the political office, or better yet, behind bars for his many corruption scandals. The sad truth is, however, that Gantz is unlikely to fare better as a prime minister than Netanyahu. Based on his warmongering discourse, the Israeli general’s plans for war on Gaza are most likely already formulated and ready for execution.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta).