Politicians from the right wing, particularly from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, slammed Israel Resilience Party leader and former IDF chief Benny Gantz on Wednesday after his campaign launch speech and the announcement he had partnered up with former defense minister and Telem Party leader Moshe Ya'alon.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said the speech was "a collection of clichés," which included "a lot of hubris" and was mostly made up of "left wing slogans."
"Managing matters of state is not a game of empty slogans. There's a difference between being the IDF chief and running a state," Levin said. "Gantz didn't spend a day in the Knesset, didn't sit a day in the government, didn't deal with economic matters or foreign policy—and he claims to understand everything. This isn't serious, there's a great deal of disrespect towards the Israeli public."
"If it hadn't been for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's determined leadership during Operation Protective Edge, we would've been in quite a conundrum," Levin said. "It's hard to shake off the impression that Gantz at the time didn't know how to provide the answers the political ranks needed."
"They want to establish a left wing government, and instead of presenting things as they are, they prefer to dim the message and hope people are blinded by it. The Israeli public is not stupid and cannot be fooled," Levin said.
Even before Gantz's speech, the Likud Party released a video slamming Gantz for allegedly abandoning Druze Border Policeman Madhat Yousef, who was shot by a Palestinian sniper at Joseph's Tomb at the beginning of the second intifada and died of blood loss after not receiving medical treatment on time. Gantz was the Judea and Samaria Division commander at the time.
The video features the voice of Mahdi Yousef, Madhat's brother, speaking over a photo of Gantz and saying "Whoever abandons a wounded soldier can also abandon a state. 13 soldiers were abandoned. This is Gantz. He's unworthy of being prime minister."
The video later shows a clip of Gantz saying he "personally endangered the Golani Brigade" during Operation Protective Edge and that he was proud to be "on the right side, morally."
Following the speech, Netanyahu rejected it as "another speech by (Yesh Atid leader) Lapid. Whoever says he's neither right nor left, is left."
The Likud Party released a statement Tuesday night echoing the prime minister's comments. "All of this 'language laundering' can't conceal the fact that he (Gantz) is a leftist. Immediately after the elections, Gantz will join forces with Lapid and the rest of the left wing parties and establish a left wing government. The overused trick by the left to put a general at the head of a party in an effort to bring down a right wing government will not work on the national camp this time," the party said.
Culture Minister Miri Regev toed the party line, saying "Gantz is the new left. He apparently can't tell the difference between monarchy and democracy. He is the one who abandoned Golani soldiers in favor of the Palestinians, he is the one who didn't understand the tunnel threat, and most gravely, he is the one who didn't present his positions on important diplomatic issues and remained ambiguous. All he wishes is to bring down the right and Netanyahu."
Coalition head David Amsalem (Likud) slammed Gantz over his criticism of Netanyahu. "I saw how Gantz preaches to us about integrity and decency. I'd love to get his response on that party he held for himself when he retired from his job as IDF chief, which cost some NIS 600,000 of tax payer money," he wrote on Twitter.
"I wonder what the hypocritical group of cheerleaders from the left would have said if Netanyahu held a party for himself costing even 10 percent of this sum," Amsalem said.
After the speech on Tuesday evening, the New Right Party leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett called both Gantz and Ya'alon "the architects of the tie" and said that "it would be a risk to once again give Gantz security responsibility over the State of Israel. He is very weak when it comes to actions. He hesitated and stuttered throughout all of the tests he faced: abandoning the South Lebanon Army when the IDF left Lebanon, abandoning Madhat Yousef, the release of 1,000 terrorists, the failure of Operation Protective Edge."
Bennett launched a fresh attack on Wednesday morning, criticizing Gantz and Ya'alon's defense positions. "Gantz and Bogie are leading a left-wing policy of weakness and hesitancy," Bennett said, using Ya'alon's nickname.
"Bogie shaped the policy of 'let Hezbollah's missiles rust,' which gave us the disaster of the Second Lebanon War and 150,000 rockets Hezbollah (now has)," Bennett said. "Gantz shaped the policy of 'let Hamas's tunnels fall apart' which gave us 30 terror tunnels from Gaza to Israel. The cooperation between them and the policy of restraint they are leading might endanger Israel, and they must not be at the helm of Israeli security."
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu Party said in a statement after the speech that "We waited in expectation, and then we got 20,000 arrogant, condescending and detached words; zero plans, zero ideas, zero solutions."
Shas leader Interior Minister Aryeh Deri took issue with Gantz's positions on matters of religion and state. "Civil marriages and a Reform Western Wall? Public transportation on the Shabbat? That isn't the way to unify the people, but to divide them," he said.