As Israel’s third election campaign in under a year draws to a close, I would like to remind the Israeli public why we are here, why I am here, and what I am fighting for.
First and foremost, for Israeli society—for what binds us together. After serving Israel for four decades in the military, I decided to enlist again, because I felt that we were separating into tribes and subgroups and that at this time, there is no leadership in Israel.
I respect Benjamin Netanyahu as an individual and as the prime minister and a leader. He did much for this country. We spent many hours together when I served as Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff, and he even extended my term for another year.
Unfortunately, something has happened to him since. He became embroiled in cases that produced mounting allegations and eventually, serious indictments. Instead of looking out for Israel, he began looking out for himself. Starting on March 17, Netanyahu will have to spend all his time dealing with legal affairs in court and in countless meetings with his lawyers. Israel needs a full-time prime minister.
In the 72 years since Israel’s inception, we have achieved great things. We have wonderful human capital, but we also have much to do as we move forward. Our doctors are some of the best in the world, but the health-care system is on the verge of collapse, and now has to deal with an epidemic. It is expected to do so with the minister in charge of it facing criminal charges.
Our teachers, principals and educators, in particular, are wonderful and ethical individuals, but our education system is stuck decades behind. With respect to religion and state, a large number of Israelis cannot marry according to their beliefs, and our youth find that they have no way of getting anywhere on the weekends and holidays without a vehicle.
We have the strongest and most high-quality military in the Middle East, but even the role of defense minister has become a means to an end in the cynical political game. The residents of southern Israel come under fire, with no long-term solution in sight.
I entered politics because I believe in Israel and in the Israeli public. I know how far we can go when we shake off the political stalemate. I’m here because I care. I care about you, your parents, your children—and I have the best Knesset slate to offer.
I may not sail through interviews as eloquently as Netanyahu, but I settle for the truth: I will not lie to you, I will not resort to media spin, I will not undermine the military, the judiciary and the media, even if there are things that need to be rectified. I will not concede to an extreme government just to pass legislation that would allow the evasion of justice. I will always respect my political rivals and the democratic rules of the game.
Blue and White must be the largest party for me to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens. We must move forward.
Benny Gantz is the head of the Blue and White Party, and the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.