Analysis. Benny Gantz, the Israeli politician who could unseat Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, is a secular Zionist who would likely continue the main foreign and domestic policies of his predecessor, including the occupation of Palestine.

Gantz is an enemy of Netanyahu, but not of his politics

In terms of domestic policy, Benjamin “Benny” Gantz will, at least in part, distance himself from the line promoted by Benyamin Netanyahu and promote “social peace” between secular and religious Jews. However, he will not bring any revolution in terms of the relations between Israeli Jews and Israel’s second-class citizens: the Arabs and the Palestinians. 

And in terms of foreign policy, he will not pursue a substantially different one from that of the leader who was defeated on Sept. 17. He will have an iron fist approach against Iran and its allies, just like Netanyahu—who, at the Monaco Security Conference in February, named Tehran as a major challenge to the West—and he will not give up the embrace of Donald Trump. 

On Wednesday night, the US president tweeted that his relationship was not with Netanyahu, but with the State of Israel. If Netanyahu is in his twilight days, as it appears, this doesn’t mean that the end of the long political era under his leadership will bring about any radical turn.

Gantz is 60 years old, married, with four children, having spent his whole life in the armed forces, reaching the rank of general and the post of head of the joint chiefs of staff—and he only appears to be a man of the “center.” The program of his “Resilience” party—which he founded last December and then combined with other groups, resulting in the “Blue and White” party he now leads—is very close to that of the right on issues such as Iran, the Arab world and the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Gantz is not a part of the current of religious Zionism, which inspired Netanyahu and currently dominates in Israeli society, but neither is he connected ideologically to the Labor party’s variety of Zionism (which is long past its heyday). He is a secular Zionist pure and simple, an advocate of Israel’s security policies and of maintaining the occupation.

During this election campaign, and in the one before the April 9 elections, the former army chief of staff never made any mention of a “two-state” solution, Israel and Palestine. The progressive website +972 writes that Gantz likes the status quo, the occupation, with Israel controlling all the territory of historic Palestine, but without officially annexing the West Bank, as Netanyahu would like to do. 

Gantz went to the Jordan Valley in late July and said that this Palestinian territory would be a part of Israel in any future agreement. A few days later, on Aug. 6, he went to Israeli communities on the Gaza border and promised “decisive action to bring down the leaders of Hamas.” In practical terms, he promised a new war. Besides, as commander of the Israeli armed forces, he presided over two offensives against Gaza in 2012 and 2014, which resulted in over 2,000 Palestinians dead, thousands of injured and immense destruction. During the spring campaign, Gantz was bragging that he had reduced Gaza to rubble, trying to siphon off votes from the right.

Unlike Netanyahu, he is likely to stop the continuous attacks against President Mahmoud Abbas and adopt a softer line towards the Palestinian National Authority. However, he will not propose any solutions that would recognize the rights of Palestinians to a greater extent than the meager administrative autonomy recognized for their main population centers by the Oslo Accords. He will have a favorable opinion on the US “peace plan,” the “Deal of the Century” influenced by the defeated prime minister, which is set to exclude a Palestinian state. 

At a conference in 2016, Gantz said: “It is important to reach a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians. We must continue to live with the sword in hand, but at least we can tell our children that we tried.” He took care not to repeat such words during the election campaign.

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