AFP

Israel vote Gantz,PROFILE 28 Şubat 2020 - 06:45

Israeli ex-general takes third jab at ousting Netanyahu By Stephen Weizman =(File Picture+File video)= Jerusalem, Feb 28, 2020 (AFP) - Former armed forces chief Benny Gantz will take a fresh shot at unseating Israel's veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday after two previous electoral showdowns ended in deadlock. The 60-year-old has been in the public eye since first declaring political ambitions and running against Netanyahu in December 2018. Within months, his centrist Blue and White party shocked Israeli politics by matching Netanyahu's rightwing Likud in polls last April and then edged it in September. But neither party was able to gain the support of more than half the 120 MPs in the country's proportional system, forcing yet another election. Yet after three gruelling campaigns, many Israelis feel Gantz is still more defined by his opposition to Netanyahu than for offering genuine change. - Benny-huta - Gantz was born on June 9, 1959, in Kfar Ahim, a southern village that his immigrant parents, both Holocaust survivors, helped establish. He joined the army in 1977 and went on to command Shaldag, an air force special operations unit. He earned the military nickname "Benny-huta", a play on the word meaning "in good time" or "no rush" -- indicative of his relaxed character. In 1994, he returned to the army to command a brigade and then a division in the occupied West Bank, before serving as Israel's military attache to the United States from 2005 until 2009. He was the army's chief of staff from 2011 until his retirement in 2015, working closely with Netanyahu. In 2014, he commanded the army's operations in the war with Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas and has boasted of the number of Palestinian militants killed and targets destroyed. Blue and White is often hawkish on security and includes a number of Likud defectors in senior positions. Through the latest campaign, Gantz has sought to keep voter attention on the corruption allegations against his rival Netanyahu. The prime minister is fighting not just for his political career but potentially his freedom, with a trial due to begin two weeks after the election. "On March 17, his mandate ends and the trial begins," Gantz said of Netanyahu at a political rally. "Netanyahu will not be able to take care of the Israeli people as well as his own affairs." - 'In tandem' - Gantz, who stands well over six feet (1.82 metres) tall, has kept his positions vague in several key areas, including the moribund peace process with the Palestinians. Like Netanyahu, he was quick to endorse US President Donald Trump's controversial peace plan, viewed as overwhelmingly pro-Israeli and firmly rejected by the Palestinians. But while calling it a "historic milestone", he also seemed to hint at reservations. "Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable, functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region." Some saw the idea of "in tandem" with neighbouring Arab states and the Palestinians as a tactic to bury the plan indefinitely. A security hawk, Gantz has said, like Netanyahu, that the West Bank's strategic Jordan Valley must remain under Israeli control. But while Netanyahu has said preparations for its unilateral annexation are already under way, Gantz has pledged annexation "in coordination with the international community". Such international support would almost certainly be impossible, with most nations considering the territory illegally occupied. Regarding the Palestinians, the Blue and White election manifesto speaks of wanting to separate from them, but does not specifically mention a two-state solution. scw/jod/bs/hc/qan

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