(January 14, 2019 / Israel Hayom) Former Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff and head of the newly formed Israel Resilience Party Benny Gantz made his first political comments on Monday, saying that he would change the language of the controversial nation-state law.
In a meeting with activists from Israel’s Druze community, Gantz said: “We have a covenant of blood, and no less important, we have a covenant of life. We need to ensure that we build this alliance together.”
Gantz vowed to do “all he could” to change the law so that it would reflect “the indelible bond between us, not just in the battlefield but also in everyday life.”
Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People was enacted last year after months of heated debates between coalition partners. Though largely symbolic, the contentious legislation states that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”
Druze leaders lambasted the law, saying it casts the community as second-class citizens despite the minority group’s alliance with the Jews throughout the Israel’s 70-year history. Druze men, unlike other minorities in Israel, are required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, and many join combat units.
The meeting with Gantz took part at the end of a rally held by Druze leaders near Gantz’s home in Rosh HaAyin. One of the organizers, former Brig. Gen. Amal Asad, said during the rally: “We are here to protest what this unjustice. This campaign is not just for us, it is a campaign to determine Israel’s character.”
Asad asked Gantz to take “forceful action” to see that the law recognized the Druze’s contribution to the state from its founding.
The New Right party, under the leadership of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, issued a statement claiming that Gantz’s comments to the Druze showed his true colors.
“His first political comment prove that the he has joined forces with the left. The nation-state law is a great accomplishment that restores the national, Jewish and Zionist character of the state,” said a member of the New Right.
Despite not sharing his political views, Gantz has been a fairly strong candidate in recent polls. Many analysts say that he might turn out to be the most formidable challenger to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he manages to unite the left behind him.