Palestinians warm to Netanyahu rival, citing signs of compromise

Jack GUEZ

Jack GUEZ

He has so far said little about the Palestinian issue, or whether he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israel Resilience party head and former army chief of staff Benny Gantz was hammered by right-wing political leaders after implying that the "lessons" learned from the Gaza Strip disengagement should be "implemented in other places".

Gantz's ready-to-rumble rhetoric appears to be the only way to bring down the long-serving Netanyahu.

Israel should seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which it will not have to keep the Palestinian people under control, Benny Gantz, the main rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming general election, said on Wednesday to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Critics of the Gaza move highlight that the Palestinian enclave immediately became a launching pad for rockets targeting Israel and two years later was conquered by Hamas in an internecine war against Abbas' Fatah faction. 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". Mr Netanyahu's Likud Party warned that Mr Gantz would form a "leftist" government backed by Arab parties, while the hard-line nationalist "New Right" party claimed that Mr Gantz is planning on "expelling" more Jews from their homes.

Gantz' Resilience party said "no unilateral decision will be made on settlement evacuation" and that he would "maintain. non-negotiable security protections".

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In a statement, Gantz's party said that, unlike the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, the former armed forces chief did not foresee any unilateral pullout from West Bank settlements.

Mr Gantz is now the subject of a lawsuit filed at the Hague by Ismail Ziada, a Dutch-Palestinian citizen born in Gaza's Al Bureij refugee camp.

A poll published by the Walla news site on Thursday asks respondents to choose from among Tuesday's top primary vote-getters in deciding who their preferred candidate to lead the Likud after Netanyahu would be. Mr Netanyahu views Saar as a potential replacement and had lobbied party members hard to push him down the list.

The prime minister would win 32 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, according to a poll released by Kan public broadcasting.

. With Mr Netanyahu facing a series of corruption charges, the primaries have taken on added significance as an indicator for his potential successor within the party.

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