With Israel’s elections just days away, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz on Wednesday slammed the door on a future unity deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and launched a ferocious attack on the premier.
At a press conference in the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel in Ramat Gan on Wednesday evening, Gantz accused Netanyahu of “poisoning” the country, fostering a “culture of crime” and committing a “hate crime against democracy,” and vowed never to sit in a coalition government with him.
Referring to Netanyahu’s pending trial on corruption charges, Gantz said, “What you have done in the last month is not a campaign of hatred but a hate crime against democracy and Israeli democracy. You have built and grown a culture of crime, of state witnesses. A culture of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”
“Your obsession with evading prosecution has driven you to lie, to tear us apart, to sow division … to spread malicious rumors and incitement,” he said. “On March 17 you are going to court with the headline ‘the State of Israel against Benjamin Netanyahu,’” he added.
Netanyahu, said Gantz, was no longer worthy of leading the country.
“Netanyahu, you’ve lost it, and you are not worthy of being prime minister for one more day. I won’t sit with you [in a coalition],” he said.
Gantz’s press conference came just a week after Acting State Attorney Dan Eldad ordered a criminal probe into Fifth Dimension, a cybersecurity company Gantz headed from 2015-2018 and that subsequently went bankrupt, over allegations of impropriety regarding a deal with the Israel Police.
While Gantz himself is not accused of any wrongdoing in the case, since the announcement of investigation Blue and White has slipped in the polls, with Likud taking a slight lead.
Netanyahu stepped up his own rhetoric against the Blue and White leader earlier on Wednesday, telling Israel’s Army Radio that “an Israeli prime minister cannot be extorted by Iran and cannot be in a situation where someone will pressure him,” referring to reports last March that Gantz’s cellular phone had been hacked by Iranian intelligence.
Gantz’s refusal to participate in a debate ahead of the March 2 elections, said Netanyahu, also proved he wasn’t ready to lead the country.
“A prime minister in Israel has to withstand tremendous pressures. Gantz cannot stand the pressure of a debate against me,” he said.