Benjamin Gantz (Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִין "בֵּנִי" גַּנְץ; born 9 June 1959) is an Israeli soldier and politician serving as Alternate Prime Minister of Israel and Minister of Defense since 2020. He served as the 20th Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015 and the 17th Speaker of the Knesset from 26 March 2020 to 17 May 2020.
Gantz in 2019
|Alternate Prime Minister of Israel|
|Assumed office |
17 May 2020
Serving with Benjamin Netanyahu
|Preceded by||Office created|
|Minister of Defense|
|Assumed office |
17 May 2020
|Prime Minister||Benjamin Netanyahu|
|Preceded by||Naftali Bennett|
|17th Speaker of the Knesset|
26 March 2020 – 17 May 2020
|Preceded by||Yuli Edelstein|
|Succeeded by||Yariv Levin|
|20th Chief of the General Staff|
14 February 2011 – 16 February 2015
|Prime Minister||Benjamin Netanyahu|
|Preceded by||Gabi Ashkenazi|
|Succeeded by||Gadi Eizenkot|
|Born||9 June 1959|
Kfar Ahim, Israel
|Alma mater||Tel Aviv University|
University of Haifa
National Defense University
|Branch/service||Israel Defense Forces|
|Years of service||1977–2015|
|Awards||Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)|
|Knessets||21, 22, 23|
|Faction represented in Knesset|
|2019-||Blue and White (Resilience)|
In December 2018, he established a new political party named Israel Resilience. The party later allied itself with Telem and Yesh Atid to form Blue and White (Hebrew: Kaḥol Lavan), the colours of the Israeli national flag. Gantz's Blue and White alliance platform includes introducing prime ministerial term limits, barring indicted politicians from serving in the Knesset, amending the nation-state law to include Israeli minorities, limiting the power of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel over marriages, investing in early education, expanding health care, and re-entering negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement.
On 20 April 2020, Gantz agreed to join a unity government with Prime Minister Netanyahu which would see Gantz serve as prime minister in a rotation deal in 18 months. Gantz is scheduled to become prime minister on 17 November 2021.
Early life, family, and education
Benjamin Gantz was born in Kfar Ahim, Israel, in 1959. His mother Malka was a Holocaust survivor, originally from Mezőkovácsháza, Hungary. His father Nahum came from Sovata, Székely Land, Romania, and was arrested by the British authorities for trying to enter Palestine illegally, before reaching Israel. His parents were among the founders of Moshav Kfar Ahim, a cooperative agricultural community in south-central Israel. In his youth, he attended the Shafir High School in Merkaz Shapira, and boarding school at the HaKfar HaYarok youth village in Ramat HaSharon.
Gantz is a graduate of the IDF Command and Headquarters College and the National Security College. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Tel Aviv University, a master's degree in political science from the University of Haifa, and an additional master's degree in National Resources Management from the National Defense University in the United States.
Gantz was drafted into the IDF in 1977. He volunteered as a paratrooper in the Paratroopers Brigade. His first mission as a young conscript in 1977 was as part of the security detail for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel. As a paratrooper, he fought in Operation Litani in March 1978 and also participated in a June 1978 raid against a Fatah training base in Lebanon. In 1979, Gantz became an officer after completing Officer Candidate School. He returned to the Paratroopers Brigade and served as a platoon leader and company commander, completed a course in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and fought in the First Lebanon War.
Later on, he led 890 "Efe" (Echis) paratroop battalion in counter-guerrilla operations in the South Lebanon security zone. In 1991, he commanded the commando unit that was on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for 36 hours, securing the Operation Solomon airlift of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He served in senior command positions during the Second Intifada and Second Lebanon War.
In the course of his military career, Gantz served as Commander of the Shaldag Unit in the Israeli Air Force; Commander of the 35th Paratroopers Brigade; Commander of the Reserves Division in the Northern Command; Commander of the Lebanon Liaison Unit; Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division in 2000, before becoming the Commander of the Israeli Northern Command in 2001; and as Israel's military attaché in the United States from 2005 until 2009, before becoming the Deputy Chief of the General Staff.
Chief of Staff
Following the canceled appointment of previous nominee Aluf Yoav Galant, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on 5 February 2011 that he would be recommending to the government that Gantz be appointed the 20th Chief of the General Staff (after the pending approval by the Turkel Advisory Committee on Senior Appointments and a government vote). Gantz had already been in the process of an honorable discharge from his army service.
On 13 February 2011, the Israeli government unanimously approved Gantz to be the next IDF chief of staff. According to The Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Gantz was an "excellent officer and experienced commander, and had rich operational and logistical experience, with all the attributes needed to be a successful army commander".
On 14 February 2011, Gantz returned to the IDF and assumed command as the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. He served for the required three years and was nominated for a fourth year, which he agreed to fulfill, followed by retirement.
In his first year as Chief of the General Staff, Gantz appointed the IDF's first-ever female major-general, Orna Barbivai. In July 2011, Gantz appointed a special committee to address a controversy that had developed concerning mention of the word Elohim, "God", in the military Yizkor prayer. The committee determined that a disputed passage should read Yizkor 'Am Yisrael, "May the Nation of Israel remember", and not Yizkor Elohim, "May God remember". Gantz upheld the committee's ruling.
Gantz was the chairman of the Fifth Dimension, a computer security and law enforcement technology company, which specialized in tracking via smartphone spyware. The company closed due to financial reasons, after its Russian investor Viktor Vekselberg was sanctioned under CAATSA by the United States during the Special Counsel investigation into Russian attempts to interfere with the US election, led by Robert Mueller.
In December 2018, Gantz announced the formation of a new political party, but did not originally disclose his views or name of the organization. Polls demonstrated fluctuating support for the party. On 27 December 2018, Gantz formally established the Israel Resilience Party ("Hosen LeYisrael" in Hebrew), which ran in the April 2019 Israeli legislative election.
In his first major political speech on 29 January 2019, Gantz pledged to strengthen Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank and said that Israel would never leave the Golan Heights. He neither endorsed nor rejected a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. "The Jordan Valley will be our border, but we won't let millions of Palestinians living beyond the fence to endanger our identity as a Jewish state," he said. At the end of his speech, Gantz announced an electoral alliance with former minister of defense and IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon.
Gantz helped formulate a unilateral separation plan for the Institute for National Security Studies calling for the unilateral creation of a contiguous Palestinian "entity" on 65% of the West Bank and a freeze on construction in settlements outside the major settlement blocs expected to be retained in a future peace agreement in order to stave off the perceived threat of a one-state solution, which the plan termed as being an existential threat to Israel, along with a nuclear Iran.
Gantz criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to bar U.S. Congress female members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, saying that Omar and Tlaib would have seen that the West Bank is "the second best place" for Arabs in the Middle East.
Three elections and Prime Minister designate
There were three elections between March 2019 and March 2020 leading to constitutional crisis in Israel. After the September 2019 election, Gantz was mandated to form a government and failed. In March the following year, after losing a few seats, he was again given a mandate. Talks to form a coalition led to a Netanyahu government.
On 26 March 2020, Gantz was elected as Knesset speaker, replacing Likud's Yuli-Yoel Edelstein who resigned. This decision was opposed by his coalition since Gantz previously focused on promises in his campaigns to oust Netanyahu from office, and vowed that he would not serve under 'corrupt leader' who faced criminal charges.
Despite agreeing to take part in Netanyahu-led coalition government in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gantz would again express opposition to Netanyahu's annexation plans. On 29 June 2020, Gantz claimed the Israeli Prime Minister should instead put the COVID-19 pandemic first.
In March 2010, the Israeli daily Israel Hayom reported that Gantz had illegally extended the perimeter of his yard by several feet to encompass a small plot of land designated as public property. Gantz admitted to the facts but claimed that the land in question was not, and could not be, accessible for use by the public. Two months later, the deck he built was removed. In February 2011, following the government decision to promote Gantz to Chief of the General Staff, Attorney Avi'ad Vissuli of the Forum for the Land of Israel unsuccessfully petitioned to revoke the appointment.
In February 2019, an Israeli-American woman accused Gantz of exposing himself to her 40 years earlier, causing her traumatic disorders. Gantz denied all allegations, claiming that such an incident never took place, and that the allegations were politically motivated. Gantz has since sued the woman for defamation.
- "Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz Appointed 20th IDF Chief of the General Staff". Israel Defense Forces. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- Haaretz Service (14 February 2011). "Gantz takes over as IDF chief: I am ready to face the challenges". Haaretz. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- "Gantz appointed Knesset speaker". Arutz Sheva. 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
- Staff writer (12 May 2020). "Likud's Yariv Levin tapped as Knesset speaker in new government as Gantz resigns". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
- Gil Hoffman; Jeremy Sharon (14 May 2020). "Likud rebellion delays Knesset swearing-in". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
- Staff writer (15 May 2020). "PM appoints Katz finance minister, 'right man' to lead Israel out of crisis". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
- Moran Azulay (27 December 2018). "Benny Gantz registers new political party". Ynetnews.
- Wootliff, Raoul. "Surrounded by idioms: How campaign slogans get lost in English translation". timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
- Staff writer. "United Gantz-Lapid party to be called 'Blue and White'; no women in top 6". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Raoul Wootliff (6 March 2019). "Blue and White releases its political platform: 'No second disengagement'". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
- Halbfinger, David M.; Kershner, Isabel (20 April 2020). "Netanyahu's Power Is Extended as Rival Accepts Israel Unity Government". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- Gil Hoffman (17 May 2020). "New Israeli government finally under way". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
- Aderet, Ofer (8 April 2013). "Israel commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day". Haaretz.
- Winer, Stuart; Shmulovich, Michael (8 April 2013). "In Auschwitz, Israeli army chief vows to prevent a 'second Holocaust'". The Times of Israel.
- "גנץ ונתניהו נפגשו והתחברו למקורות ולשורשים". ערוץ 7.
- "New Deputy Chief of the General Staff Appointed" (Press release). IDF Spokesperson's Website. 12 July 2009. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Pfeffer, Anshel (28 January 2019). "The General Coming to End the Netanyahu Era". Haaretz. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
- Gal Perl Finkel, "When good commander doesn't equal a good politician", The Jerusalem Post, Mars 7, 2019.
- Gal Perl Finkel, "Importance of IDF Ground Forces in new army appointments", The Jerusalem Post, 21 February 2019.
- Avihai Becker, Generally Sensitive, Haaretz, 24 April 2002.
- "IDF chief announces new appointments to General Staff" from Haaretz[permanent dead link] Google cache version
- Greenberg, Hanan (5 February 2011). "Gantz set to be named 20th IDF chief". Ynet. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- Ravid, Barak (13 February 2011). "Benny Gatz becomes IDF's 20th chief of staff". Haaretz. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- Keinon, Herb (13 February 2011). "Gantz appointment as IDF chief sails through cabinet". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- "Newly Appointed Head of the Personnel Directorate, GOC Northern Command, GOC Home Front Command". IDF Spokesperson's Unit. 26 March 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
Brig. Gen. Orna Barbivay will be promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed Head of the Personnel Directorate, replacing Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, who will end his service in the IDF.
- "Israeli military appoints first female major general". Monsters and Critics. Tel Aviv. Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 26 May 2011. Archived from the original on 24 June 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has promoted the first female major general in its 63-year history, a military spokesman announced Thursday night.
- Katz, Yaakov (4 August 2011). "IDF panel keeps God out of Yizkor prayer". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
The IDF will retain the original wording of the Yizkor memorial prayer with 'Yizkor Am Yisrael' (May the People of Israel Remember), and not 'Yizkor Elohim' (May God Remember), a military committee tasked with ruling on the issue announced on Thursday.
- Yossi Arazi and Gal Perl Finkel, "Integrating Technologies to Protect the Home Front against Ballistic Threats and Cruise Missiles", Military and Strategic Affairs, Volume 5, No. 3, December 2013.
- "NSO in talks to buy Israeli intelligence co Fifth Dimension". Globes. 11 November 2018.
- Hoffman, Gil. (16 December 2018). "Did Stormy Daniels cause Benny Gantz's Cyber Company to close shop?" Jerusalem Post website Retrieved 16 December 2018.
- "Israeli Startup Headed by Ex-top Security Officials Shuts Due to Link With Sanctioned Oligarch". Haaretz. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
- Asa-El, Amotz. (22 December 2018). "The other Benjamin-Will Israeli politics be saved by one-more general?". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- Mualem, Mazal. (21 November 2018). "Former IDF head spooks Israel's entire political spectrum". Al-Monitor Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- Hoffman, Gil. (25 December 2018). "Poll finds Gantz's political party in free fall". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
- "Former IDF chief names new party: 'Israel's Resilience'". WIN. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
- "Breaking political silence, Gantz indicates he won't serve under indicted PM". Times of Israel. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- "Gantz: Current leadership is divisive, I won't join Netanyahu if indicted". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- Gross, Judah Ari. "Proposal would split Israel from Palestinians – but don't call it a peace plan". Times of Israel. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
- "Gantz in Munich speech: 'No daylight' with Netanyahu on Iran". Times of Israel. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
- "Gantz: Tlaib, Omar Would Have Seen West Bank Is 'Second Best Place' for Mideast Arabs". Haaretz. 10 September 2019.
- "Benny Gantz elected Israeli speaker, signalling deal with Netanyahu" The Guardian
- Peter Beaumont and Rosie Scammell, Netanyahu's annexation plan in disarray as Gantz calls for delay The Guardian 29 June 2020
- "Benny Gantz, Netanyahu Rival, Gives Campaign Launch Speech – Full English Transcript". Haaretz. 30 January 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
- Navon, Eran (5 March 2010). שטח משוחרר – הוחזר [Liberated Land – Returned]. Israel Hayom (in Hebrew). Retrieved 7 February 2011.
- Sharvit, Noam (7 February 2011). פנייה ליועץ: פסול מינוי גנץ בשל עבירות בנייה [Petition to the Attorney General: Revoke Gantz's Appointment in Light of Building Violations] (in Hebrew). NRG (Ma'ariv). Retrieved 7 February 2011.
- Tzuk, Dana (7 February 2011). המטה למען א"י נגד האלוף גנץ [The Forum for the Land of Israel V. Major General Gantz] (in Hebrew). GLZ (Army Radio). Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
- "Gantz accused of sexual harassment by Israeli woman living in US". Ynetnews. 28 February 2019.
- "Gantz rejects sexual misconduct allegations, 'This is a blood libel' – Israel News". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
- "Benny Gantz files libel suit against woman who accused him of sexual harassment when they were teens". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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