Blue & White Chairman Benny Gantz launched a fierce attack Wednesday on main rival Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a heated press conference in which he accused the premier of fueling tensions within Israeli society in an effort to avoid justice in his corruption cases.
“Netanyahu, look me in the eye. Your obsession with evading prosecution has driven you to lie, to tear us apart, to sow division… to spread malicious rumors and incitement,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu, you are poisoning Israel.”
The centrist leader also responded to personal attacks launched at him by Netanyahu and his Likud party’s campaign, trying to portray the former head of the Israeli military as an inept candidate who cracks and stutters under pressure.
In an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu said that “a prime minister in Israel has to withstand tremendous pressures. Gantz cannot stand the pressure of debating me,” referring to his invitation to a debate on live television before Monday’s parliamentary elections to which Gantz declined.
Netanyahu himself has repeatedly avoided election debates for over a decade.
“Every opponent who runs against you faces this campaign of mud, starting two days before the election and magically disappearing two days afterward,” the former IDF chief said.
Gantz revealed for the first time that Netanyahu had offered him to join his Likud party and serve as his defense minister before the Blue & White chairman made his entry to the political life.
He has also closed all prospects of joining a government featuring Netanyahu – a possibility bought parties sought desperately just two months prior.
“Just a year and a half ago, you asked me to join Likud and be your defense minister, and just two months ago you called for a partnership and offered me to be prime minister [in a rotation agreement],” Gantz said.
“Netanyahu, you’ve lost it, and you aren’t worthy of being prime minister for one more day. I won’t sit with you [in a coalition].”
Netanyahu upped his rhetoric Wednesday against Gantz, reigniting old speculations that Iranian intelligence has allegedly hacked a cellphone belonging to Gantz and compromised sensitive data, making him vulnerable to extortion by Israel’s enemies.
“No one threatens me,” Gantz said. “Not Hamas, not Hezbollah, not Iran, and surely not you [Netanyahu]. When you were taking acting lessons in New York, I was fighting in the army.”