Former IDF Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, spoke at the AIPAC Policy Conference on Monday.
By World Israel News Staff
In his first major speech before an American event as a political candidate, former IDF Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, spoke at the AIPAC Policy Conference on Monday. According to Israeli public opinion polls, he is the leading challenger to the incumbent Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the April 9 Knesset election.
Gantz played to the hearts of the pro-Israel audience by contrasting a photo of his mother who was in Bergen-Belsen during the Holocaust with that of his son serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
He also referenced the October attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 people were killed.
“Because we are Jewish we will not stand idly by,” Gantz told the conference. “We will not tolerate racism. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism,” he said.
Addressing the issue of Iran, Gantz distinguished between the regime and the people: “I know that the Iranian people are waiting for a new dawn – one I hope we will all get to see in our lifetime.”
As for the terrorists, he added, “I am telling you, let Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS know: we’ve met before on the battlefield. You know the result.”
At this point in his address, the former Israeli military chief turned to the events of the day – a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on the center of Israel which injured several people, as well as ongoing attacks on areas in southern Israel near the Gazan border.
“The reality in the south as we, unfortunately, saw today where Israeli children spend their nights in bomb shelters, while the heads of Hamas celebrate must end now – and it will!” Gantz vowed.
Netanyahu was to appear before the AIPAC event on Tuesday but announced that he was cutting short his visit to the U.S. in the aftermath of the latest violence from Gaza.
Referring to a 2012 Israeli assassination, Gantz told the audience: “The heads of Hamas had forgotten what happened to Ahmed Jabari – their chief of staff. They will get a personal reminder if they continue targeting our population, as will all terrorists,” he said.
On the one hand, he said: “We will extend our hand in peace and we will strive for peace with any honest and willing Arab leader.”
But he added, “Jerusalem is, and will always be, Israel’s united and eternal capital. The Jordan Valley is, and always will remain, Israel’s eastern security border. The responsibility for security over the entire Land of Israel will remain in the hands of the IDF, and the IDF alone,” said the former chief of staff.
As President Donald Trump was officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Gantz told the AIPAC audience: “We will never withdraw from the Golan Heights. Never.”
As he winded down his address, Gantz addressed the tensions between segments of U.S. Jewry and Israel, saying that unity is “the secret weapon of the Jewish nation.”
Returning to the images of the Holocaust, he said: “In Bergen-Belsen no one asked: Who is reform and who is conservative; who is orthodox and who is secular; before going into battle I never checked to see who had a kippa under their helmet,” said Gantz, adding that “the divisive dialogue tearing our strong nation apart may serve political purposes but is shredding the fabric that holds us together.”