Benjamin Gantz (Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִין "בֵּנִי" גַּנְץ; born 9 June 1959) is an Israeli soldier and politician. He served as the 20th Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015.
Gantz in 2019
|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
|Branch/service||Israel Defense Forces|
|Years of service||1977–2015|
|Rank||Rav Aluf (Lieutenant general; highest rank)|
|Awards||Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)|
|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 party 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.
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 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. 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. 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.
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. He served in the 1978 South Lebanon conflict, 1982 Lebanon War, the 1985–2000 South Lebanon conflict, Operation Solomon, and the Second Intifada.
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.
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.
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- 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". www.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.
- Aderet, Ofer (8 April 2013). "Israel commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day". Haaretz.
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- Gal Perl Finkel, When good commander doesn't equal a good politician, The Jerusalem Post, Mars 7, 2019.
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- Avihai Becker, Generally Sensitive, Haaretz, 24 April 2002.
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- 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.
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- "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". 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?". 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." 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". 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, 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 – Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
- "Benny Gantz files libel suit against woman who accused him of sexual harassment when they were teens". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.