(February 6, 2019 / JNS) Israel Resilience Party leader and prime-ministerial hopeful Benny Gantz raised the ire of Israeli right-wingers on Wednesday after his first interview indicated his favorable opinion of the 2005 Gaza Disengagement/Expulsion, in which 8,500 Jews were forcibly removed from Gaza in a unilateral bid to grant Palestinians land for a state.
“The disengagement was born of Israel’s diplomatic policy. The parties involved got very high grades for managing to prevent a rift in the nation as they carried it out,” said Gantz, despite the ongoing resentment on the part of right-wingers, and a long and costly rehabilitation of the Jews who were evacuated.
When the interviewer asked, “So you’re not saddened that we uprooted settlements from there?” Gantz responded that “it was a legal action; it was approved by the government of Israel and carried out by the IDF and the settlers, with great pain but done very well.”
Former residents of the Gaza Jewish community known as Gush Katif suffered severe unemployment and significantly increased rates of divorce and stress-related health problems in the years following their experience.
In an abridged version of the interview published by Ynet and conducted by famed Israeli singer-songwriter Shlomot Artzi and comedian Hanoch Daum, Gantz added that “we have to take its lessons and implement them in other places,” suggesting that he would implement additional forcible evictions of Jews under his leadership.
He added that peace with the Palestinians “must ensure Israeli is secure,” but that “we have to find a path which leaves us not controlling other people.” He also pushed back on criticism he faced for saying that Israel should risk the lives of Israeli soldiers so as to spare the lives of Gaza civilians in the 2014 Gaza War. “You’d have me level a hospital with people inside? Answer me as a Jew, an Israeli, an IDF warrior,” Gantz said to Daum.
The Likud Party, which concluded primary elections as the interview came to light, responded that “Gantz will form a left-wing government with the help of a parliamentary bloc that relies on [Arab parliamentarian Ahmed] Tibi and the Arab Joint List.”
The New Right Party issued a statement thanking Gantz “for removing the mask, with party chairman and current Education Minister Naftali Bennett railing against him for “calling for the expulsion of more Jews from their homes,” warning that “only a strong New Right Party will prevent Benny Gantz from becoming defense minister in the next Netanyahu government.”
Gantz responded to the statements by noting that the Gaza Disengagement had been conducted by the Likud Party, under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
“The disengagement was carried out and led by a legitimate government led by Likud,” he said in a statement. “[Benjamin] Netanyahu and the leaders of Likud voted for it, and Miri Regev [who was then the IDF spokesperson] was its spokesperson.”
“Netanyahu, who voted for the disengagement, and Regev, who sold it with a smile on her face, won’t preach to us about diplomatic and national-security responsibility,” he said.
He noted that Netanyahu voted for the disengagement three times in 2004: the Feb. 16 Knesset vote approving compensation for evacuees, the June 6 cabinet vote approving the expulsion and the final deciding vote on Oct. 26.