Netanyahu fumes as war record questioned by rival and former IDF chief

The two leaders in the Knesset election campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, exchange verbal blows as the rhetoric escalates.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

With opinion polls showing a dead heat between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his leading challenger, Benny Gantz, in public support to become the next prime minister, the two men have locked horns in their election campaigns, ahead of the April 9th Knesset election.

Earlier this week, Gantz, whose motto has included rising above politics to create unity, ridiculed Netanyahu’s younger years during which he lived in the United States, perfected his English, and, according to the challenger, led the good life.

“In another month and a half we will all go and choose between a ruler who has English from Boston, heavy makeup and expensive suits, and a real, caring Israeli leader, who is not fake, and not kingly,” said Gantz at a party gathering on Monday.

The former IDF chief of staff paralleled his career with Neyanyahu’s, saying that “at a time when I trained generations of commanders and fighters, you were taking acting lessons in a New York studio.”

On Tuesday, the incumbent prime minister fired back by citing his own military career as well as his diplomatic exploits later in life.

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“You are attacking me, a soldier and officer in Sayeret Matkal [special forces] unit who commanded many operations behind enemy lines, who was wounded in the [1972] operation to rescue the hostages of the Sabena plane, who almost lost my life in a shootout in the Suez Canal, who risked my life time after time for our state, which you want to endanger with unilateral withdrawals and support for the dangerous Iran nuclear deal,” Netanyahu countered in a video.

Earlier this month, Gantz appeared to support further withdrawals from Judea and Samaria, saying in an interview: “We need to find a way so that we’re not ruling over other people.” Gantz also appeared to support the 2005 unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

“And what else are you attacking me about? The English I speak, the English which has been a central tool in our public diplomacy war and which greatly helped me improve our foreign relations to an all-time record,” Netanyahu added in his rebuttal to Gantz.

On the question who is the most suitable candidate to be prime minister, a public opinion poll released a few weeks ago by Channel 13 News showed Gantz and Netanyahu each receiving 42 percent support.

The Knesset ballot is for parties, not individuals. A Channel 13 poll earlier this week showed Netanyahu’s Likud party leading with 32 seats followed by the Gantz-led Israel Resilience party with 24 seats in the battle for the role of forming a majority in the Israeli parliament after the upcoming election.