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Netanyahu faces new challenges: Gantz surges in polls, Attorney General hints at indictment

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The Israeli campaign trail is heating up as the April 9 elections draw closer. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a fast-growing opposition, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said he plans to decide whether to indict the PM before the election, and Palestinian lawmakers are scrambling to finalize their slates ahead of their primaries.

Former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz, head of the new Hosen L’Yisrael party (Resilience for Israel), is making strides in his election campaign, with polls placing him at a near tie with Netanyahu — something no other candidate or party has managed to do in recent years.

Following Gantz’s first public speech in Tel Aviv earlier this week, Haaretz reported that if elections were held now, Gantz would receive 21 to 24 Knesset seats — eight seats up from the previous poll predictions.

In a poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 12 news station asking who voters wanted as Prime Minister,  36% of those polled said Netanyahu while 35% said Gantz.

Leaders of the centrist Yesh Atid party (There is a Future) are reportedly considering forming a joint center ticket with Gantz’s party following the ex-military chief’s spike in the polls.

If the two parties were to form a joint list with Gantz as their leader, polls predict they could win a plurality of  35 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset, compared to a predicted 30 to 31 seats for Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said in a statement on Friday that he sees no legal reason to delay reaching a decision on recommending to indict Netanyahu on charges of bribery and corruption before the April 9 elections.

In a letter to Netanyahu’s legal team, which has been pressuring Mandelblit to delay his announcement until after the elections, Mandelblit said postponing his recommendations would “be a violation of the principle of equality before the law” and “is not in keeping with the public’s right to know,” Haaretz reported.

If Mandelblit were to announce his intention to indict Netanyahu before the election, polls suggest that Netanyahu could lose four Knesset seats.

Coupled with Gantz’s rising popularity, an announcement from Mandelblit could spell disaster for Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition, which initially sought the snap election with hopes it would increase his chances of reelection.

Where exactly does Gantz stand?

In the wake of Gantz’s official campaign announcement earlier this week, Netanyahu’s Likud party released a statement calling him “weak left.”

Ultra-nationalist Education Minister and founder of the “New Right” party in Israel, Naftali Bennett, called Gantz a “clear leftist” and said it would be “a danger to make him responsible again for Israel’s security.”

But Gantz, who released a campaign video proudly featuring images of a post-2014 Gaza devastated by war boasting that as military chief he sent “parts of Gaza back to the stone age,” is a self-declared “centrist,” and is considered by analysts as center-right.

In addition to his campaign video bragging about the number of Palestinians he killed in Gaza, Gantz pledged to “thwart the plots” of Iran across the region, and work against Iran “in the international arena, in the economic arena and in the military arena.”

“And if you do not understand the message in words, you will understand it with painful and precise blows,” he said, directly addressing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his speech earlier this week.

Gantz also threatened Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, saying “I suggest you not test me again,” insinuating that the assassination of Hamas leaders would not be off the table under his government.

While he pledged to “allow any humanitarian assistance” and promote economic development in Gaza, Gantz said he would not allow the entrance of millions of dollars of Qatari aid to Gaza, saying “I will not allow the payment of protection cash payments in suitcases to murderous gangs.”

He also promised to strengthen illegal settlement blocs in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Golan Heights, “from which we will never retreat.”

“The Jordan Valley will remain our eastern security border. We will maintain security in the entire Land of Israel, but we will not allow the millions of Palestinians living beyond the separation fence to endanger our security and our identity as a Jewish state,” he said. “United Jerusalem will be built, will grow – and will remain forever the capital of the Jewish people and the capital of the State of Israel.”

Palestinian parties face new challenges

Following the sudden departure of the Ta’al party from the Joint List political bloc — representing parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in Israeli parliament — the coalition of Palestinian lawmakers will be seeing some major changes in coming weeks.

Ta’al’s leader Ahmad Tibi announced his party’s departure in January following accusations of insufficient Ta’al representation in the Joint List.

His departure has hurt the popularity of current Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, with polls indicating that 47% of Palestinian citizens of Israel prefer Tibi as chair of the bloc over Odeh.

According to Haaretz, the poll also found that if elections were held now, Tibi’s Ta’al would receive 43 percent of Palestinian votes, compared with 38 percent who said they’d vote for an alliance of the other Palestinian parties.

Hadash and Balad, two of the four factions that make up the Joint List, will be holding primary elections and finalizing their slates this weekend.

Sixteen new candidates are expected to compete for five spots on Balad’s slate, after two of the party’s Knesset members, Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, announced they would not be running for reelection.

Despite all the new faces expected to emerge from this year’s Joint List and the decreasing popularity of Odeh, polls have projected that the bloc, even without Ta’al, will win 12 seats in the upcoming election, maintaining its status as the third largest bloc in the Knesset.

Meanwhile, according to Haaretz, 64% of Palestinians in Israel who participated in a survey said they were in favor of Palestinian parties joining the governing coalition, while 80% said they were in favor of “supporting the government from the opposition benches in exchange for increased government funding for their communities.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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17 Responses

  1. eljay on February 1, 2019, 1:16 pm

    … Ultra-nationalist Education Minister and founder of the “New Right” party in Israel, Naftali Bennett, called Gantz a “clear leftist” and said it would be “a danger to make him responsible again for Israel’s security.”

    But Gantz, who released a campaign video proudly featuring images of a post-2014 Gaza devastated by war boasting that as military chief he sent “parts of Gaza back to the stone age,” is a self-declared “centrist,” and is considered by analysts as center-right. …

    Jewish supremacists (Zionists) argue over who has is the bigger dick.

    • Kay24 on February 1, 2019, 7:22 pm

      Absolutely. This time the Palestinians are being used for political ads, showing how much tougher the candidate compared to his rival, and how much more Palestinians he can kill, or how far back to the stone age Gaza can be bombed. Imagine if the Iranian leaders ran ads like this stating how much more Israelis they can kill and how much rubble they can turn Tel Aviv in to. The hypocrites would be howling about how anti semitic they are.

      • eljay on February 1, 2019, 8:38 pm

        || Kay24: … Imagine if the Iranian leaders ran ads like this stating how much more Israelis they can kill and how much rubble they can turn Tel Aviv in to. The hypocrites would be howling about how anti semitic they are. ||

        Yup. Killing Jews is anti-Semitic. Killing non-Jews is something to be “Captain Israel” proud of. Zionism is a sick puppy.

      • Misterioso on February 2, 2019, 12:19 pm

        Kay24, et al

        https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/roger-waters-backs-war-crimes-lawsuit-against-israels-benny-gantz

        Electronic Intifada, Feb. 2/19

        “Roger Waters backs war crimes lawsuit against Israel’s Benny Gantz”

        “Rock star Roger Waters is giving financial backing to a war crimes lawsuit in the Netherlands against Benny Gantz, the former army chief who is running to be Israel’s next prime minister.

        “Last year Palestinian-Dutch citizen Ismail Ziada filed a case against Gantz and former Israeli air force chief Amir Eshel under the Netherlands’ universal jurisdiction law.

        “The complaint accuses Gantz and Eshel of responsibility for a 20 July 2014 airstrike that destroyed the Ziada family home in al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, killing six members of Ismail Ziada’s family including his mother, and a seventh person who was visiting them.

        “A crowdfunding campaign on behalf of the human rights lawyers who filed the case aims to raise almost $60,000 to cover legal costs.

        “’In support of the Ziada family’s right to their day in court in Holland, I will match any financial contribution to the legal campaign until we reach the target,’ Waters says in an endorsement on the campaign website.

        “The attack took place during Israel’s 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip commanded by Gantz, that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children.

        “In November, the Israeli generals’ lawyers submitted a response which ignored Ziada’s key argument that the bombing was illegal and a war crime under international law.

        “Instead, the generals claim a right to immunity and dispute the jurisdiction of the Dutch court.

        “Unlike Ziada, the two generals will have unlimited resources to fight the effort to hold them accountable, as the Israeli government is paying their legal fees.

        “Proud killer”
        “While Gantz seeks to avoid accountability for his actions, he remains proud of his record of killing – boasting about the destruction and death toll he caused in Gaza in videos launching his election campaign.

        “Gantz is rising rapidly in the polls and is now seen as having a real chance of unseating Israel’s scandal-plagued Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April’s elections.

        “Gantz’s rise is undoubtedly being assisted by sympathetic media coverage, including from Israel’s supposedly liberal flagship newspaper, Haaretz.

        “Haaretz’s editorial board gave Gantz a full-throated endorsement, praising the accused war criminal for offering ‘a concrete alternative leadership to Benjamin Netanyahu.’

        “No doubt, as Gantz gains political stature, international media will join Haaretz in whitewashing him.

        “Reuters is already blandly describing Gantz’s Hosen Le Yisrael (Israel Resilience) party as ‘middle of the road.’

        In a tweet, Haaretz also described Gantz as projecting ‘the sanity and normalcy many Israelis crave.'”

        That prompted one Twitter user to quip that “since Gantz was bragging about how many Palestinians he killed, that should give you an idea of what Israelis consider normal and sane.”

      • Elizabeth Block on February 2, 2019, 3:01 pm

        Some people blame it all on Netanyahu. He is bad enough! but the politicians coming along behind him, like Benny Gantz (and for that matter Tzipi Livni) are no better and often far worse.

        People have said to me, “Most Israeli Jews want peace.” I reply that in that case, why is it that any politician who is ready and willing to do what is necessary to make peace doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of being elected?

      • Kay24 on February 2, 2019, 10:26 pm

        Eljay, I agree a hundred percent.

        Misterioso, that is an interesting article, and I must admit I did not know how bad Ghastly Gantz really was. How fitting that Israel gets a ruthless war criminal to lead the country again.

        Elizabeth Block, it seems Israelis cannot deal with a moderate leader who genuinely wants peace, and it also looks like Israelis love ruthless war criminals that do not hesitate to kill unarmed kids, and send precision bombs into homes wiping out entire families. In fact some of them picnic on their stolen hills, just to get a birds eye view of the massacre.

  2. MHughes976 on February 2, 2019, 3:51 am

    Is anyone campaigning on a promise or a plan for an agreement or peaceful future with the Palestinians? Or is it all swagger and threat?
    Yunna reports that the Palestinian parties in Israel are talking about supporting a new government. Is there in fact any realistic chance of their holding the balance between the other groups?

    • catalan on February 2, 2019, 9:27 am

      “Is anyone campaigning on a promise or a plan for an agreement or peaceful future with the Palestinians? “ MHughes
      It is not possible to have a peaceful future as the demands of the BDS movement – entry in Israel by 10 million descendants of refugees; imposition of the Partition borders thereby removing about half of Israelis from their current homes; and changing the constitution of what remains in Israel – are completely a non-starter. Since BDS is going to continue until these demands are met what is the point of talking about peace? Note that Hamas actually does not accept this list of demands and will continue to fight for an Islamic state in all of Palestine. I think that Israelis are simply not even interested in talking about “peace” given what the other side wants. But the BDS movement should also take credit for this definitely. If you want everything you get nothing. It’s called growing up.

      • MHughes976 on February 2, 2019, 9:58 am

        I don’t see things quite as you do, Catalan, but even if you were right that BDS is whispering in the Palestinians’ ear or shouting to them from the rooftops not to accept any reasonable idea it’s still not true that reasonable ideas should be kept under wraps. Show them something whose reasonable and constructive nature will make the bad BDS voices, if such they are, fall into silence and shame.
        I don’t see what reason the Palestinians might have not to cling to BDS as their only hope if all they hear from Israeli politicians is boasting and threatening.

      • Misterioso on February 2, 2019, 9:59 am

        @catalan

        “Note that Hamas actually does not accept this list of demands and will continue to fight for an Islamic state in all of Palestine.”
        Sigh
        Reality:

        Re: Hamas
        On 16 June 2009, after meeting with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Ismail Haniya, prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza Strip government, announced that “If there is a real plan to resolve the Palestinian question on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967 [i.e. 22% of historic Palestine] and with full sovereignty, we are in favour of it.” “Israel” ignored the offer.

        http://www.haaretz.com/isra
        “‘We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees,’ Haniyeh said, referring to the year of Middle East war in which Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories. ” (Haaretz, December 1, 2010) No response from “Israel.”

        In its revised Charter, April, 2017, Hamas again agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 4 June 1967 borders. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, “Israel” promptly rejected the Hamas overture instead of using it to open a dialogue.

        “Senior Hamas Official: ‘I Think We Can All Live Here in This Land – Muslims, Christians and Jews.’” (By Nir Gontarz. March 28, 2018, Haaretz.) No response from “Israel.”

        As for Netanyahu and the Likud party, here’s a brief summation of their positions that are contrary to international law and explain why the conflict continues:

        The Likud Party Platform:
        a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State [sic] of Israel.”
        b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State [sic] of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”
        c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”
        d. “…. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State [sic] of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

      • YoniFalic on February 2, 2019, 10:17 am

        From a legal standpoint — I have a JD-PhD — it is neither important nor proper to consider the wishes of “Israelis,” who from a legal standpoint are either genocidaires, beneficiaries of genocide, or active participants in crimes against humanity.

        The white racist genocidal invader state has never signed onto the Rome Statute. It is not clear that a criminal genocidal state founded after the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (terminus a quo for international antigenocide legal regime) has standing to sign onto the Rome Statute.

        “Israelis” should probably be judged according to customary international anti-genocide law as international anti-genocide law was developed at Nuremberg IMT.

        In addition, because the criminal “State of Israel” legitimizes itself by fraudulently claiming that some form of “return” of exiled Judeans took place

        1) even though Judeans were never exiled and

        2) even though the native Palestinians, who suffered genocide, descend from ancient Judeans,

        all assets of Zionist persons (natural & legal) should be seized both

        1) to compensate the victims of genocide and also

        2) to claw-back all monies the criminal fraudulent “State of Israel” received under false pretenses.

        Note should be taken that US persons (natural & legal) advocating or supporting Zionism are almost certainly all in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 1091 (Genocide), which was added to the U.S. Code to enable the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide in U.S. national law.

      • Misterioso on February 2, 2019, 10:32 am

        @catalan

        Meanwhile, the illegal, brutal, cowardly Zionist occupiers run rampant.

        https://www.juancole.com/2019/01/israel-construction-palestine.html

        Relevant video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=78&v=8azOWt7eMqc

        “Israel Orders School Razed, Halt to Construction of Homes in Hebron, Palestine”

        Maan News Agency – Informed Comment, 01/31/2019

        HEBRON (Ma’an) — “Israeli authorities delivered demolition notices and halt of construction orders to several homes and schools in Masafer Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, on Wednesday.”

        “Coordinator of a local popular committee against the separation wall and settlements, Rateb al-Jbour, said Israeli authorities stormed the Masafer Yatta area and delivered halt of construction orders to several homes belonging to al-Dababseh family.

        “Al-Jbour also said that Israeli authorities delivered a demolition notice to a local mixed elementary school that had been previously demolished about four months ago by Israeli forces, however, was rebuilt in the meantime.

        “Israeli authorities seek to displace Masafer Yatta residents, in order to seize their lands, as part of an Israeli settlement expansion plan in the West Bank.

        “Around 3,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Yatta region, according to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem.

        “The South Hebron Hills, known locally as Masafer Yatta, lie almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

        “Masafer Yatta residents were expelled at the time of the establishment of a firing zone in the 1970s and were eventually allowed back following a long court battle, but are under the constant threat of being expelled or seeing their homes demolished.”

      • eljay on February 2, 2019, 12:33 pm

        || catalan: … It is not possible to have a peaceful future as the demands of the BDS movement – entry in Israel by 10 million descendants of refugees; imposition of the Partition borders thereby removing about half of Israelis from their current homes; and changing the constitution of what remains in Israel – are completely a non-starter. … ||

        It’s true: It is not possible to have a future based on justice, equality and respect for human rights and international law as long as the Jewish supremacism (Zionism) movement demands that Israel…
        – remain a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” (rather than become the Israeli state of and for all people living in and up to n-generations removed from it);
        – keep as much as possible of what it has spent decades stealing, occupying and colonizing;
        – be absolved of its obligations under international law (incl. RoR); and
        – be absolved of responsibility and accountability for its past and on-going (war) crimes.

    • catalan on February 2, 2019, 12:51 pm

      “Note should be taken that US persons (natural & legal) advocating or supporting Zionism are almost certainly all in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 1091 (Genocide),” yoni
      The irony of a self admitted murderer of babies calling for posters on web sites to be prosecuted. The empty threats also show the weak underbelly of the bds movement.

      • Mooser on February 2, 2019, 4:21 pm

        “The empty threats…”

        You have nothing to worry about “catalan”. They should only worry people who have actually given more than blather to the Zionist cause.

  3. Ossinev on February 2, 2019, 7:16 am

    @MHughes976
    “Is anyone campaigning on a promise or a plan for an agreement or peaceful future with the Palestinians? Or is it all swagger and threat?”

    Not that I have seen. Things have moved on quite rapidly in Zioland in the last decade. It`s now simply a question of who can prove their credentials as the leading Fascist. The “Nation State” law has also signicicantly accelerated the descent into quasi Nazism. There isn`t as far as I can tell any politician or party promoting themselves specifically as the “peacemakers”

    I think also that for Zioloons in Israel the “swagger” is disappearing at a rate of knots. The BDS movement is definitely having an impact. The accurate classification of Zioland as an Apartheid State by opponents is having an increasing effect. The increasing loss of unqualified support from America especially from younger Americans including young American Jews is having an effect.

    So what does a bully do when people increasingly mock his “swaggering” well he simply doubles down on his bullying and makes more threats ergo Gantz my threats are better than yours Yahoo.

  4. Misterioso on February 2, 2019, 10:23 am

    Comparable to a Nazi official calling for the annexation of occupied France during WWII:

    https://www.middleeasteye.net/palestinian-state-west-bank-israeli-settlements

    Middle East Eye, Jan. 14/19
    “Israeli minister calls for annexation of the West Bank”

    “Yoav Galant dismisses the possibility of a future Palestinian state, saying ‘settlements are the new Zionism of the 21st century'”

    “A newly appointed Israeli minister on Sunday dismissed the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and called for the occupied territory to be annexed.

    “‘Settlements are the new Zionism of the 21st century,’ Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Galant said.

    “During an election campaign stop in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Galant said: ‘I am clearly saying no to a Palestinian state. It is not possible to have more than one state west of the Jordan River.’

    “’We will work to apply sovereignty in all of Judea and Samaria and to strengthen the settlements,’ he added, using the terms Israel uses for the West Bank.

    “”Only settlement is the key to holding onto sovereignty and Zionism. Judea and Samaria are the eastern defence belt of the State of Israel.’

    “Israel captured the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in 1967 and has occupied it ever since. In contravention of international law, Israel has settled hundreds of thousands of Israelis on Palestinian land.

    “There are [now about 625,000]** Israeli settlers living in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem [https://www.btselem.org/settlements/statistics]

    “The number of settlers has almost tripled since the Oslo Accords of 1993, when settlers’ number estimated 252,000. Illegal settlements have leapt from 144 to 515 in that time.

    “Israel’s nation-state law that passed last July stated that building and strengthening the settlements is a ‘national interest.’

    “Galant was appointed to his position last week after leaving Kulanu party and joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

    “He is formerly the commander of the Israeli army’s Southern Command, and led Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip in March 2010 that killed 1,400 Palestinians.”

    **(The Middle East Eye article misprinted the figure.)

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