Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is now part of the opposition and heads the National Unity party, spoke about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran during the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on Monday.
He emphasized that the danger from Iran was not confined to Israel, but was a regional and global threat.
“Today, in an ever-shifting global and Middle East reality, our nation is threatened by the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran,” Gantz said. “We must stress that a nuclear Iran is first and foremost a global challenge, endangering global and regional stability.”
Gantz made it clear that Iran’s reach is far beyond Israel and the Middle East.
“Iran’s impact is a potential existential threat to the State of Israel, but the influence Iran has on Venezuela has nothing to do with the Middle East; Iran’s interest in Western Sahara has nothing to do with the Middle East. More Saudis were attacked by Iranian proxies than Israelis,” Gantz said.
“When we talk about the need to stop Iran from becoming nuclear capable, we are saying it not only from the Israeli perspective, but from a regional and global perspective,” he said, adding that “the 11th hour” had arrived regarding the need to stop Iran and that Israel is ready to strike should the need arise.
“As an opposition leader, I want to emphasize this message: We will do whatever it takes to prevent an existential threat to the State of Israel. We know such action might come at a great cost but, as always in these matters, all of Israel’s leadership and people will unite,” he stated, adding that such unity is “imperative.”
The former IDF defense minister also mentioned the U.S., stressing that for Israel it is important “to do everything possible to reinforce our security cooperation with our most important ally, the United States of America.”
Gantz's popularity has increased in recent months, allegedly in light of the controversy surrounding the Netanyahu coalition's judicial reform agenda and the consequential protests, which he referred to as “a wake-up call.” According to an earlier poll, if elections were to be held anytime soon, Gantz would come out as head of Israel's second-largest party.
“We cannot allow tactical actions or internal politics to hinder our security,” Gantz said, saying that the deep disagreements in Israeli society about judicial reform has transformed Israel “from a melting pot to a nation of tribes.”
“This is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “Our mission, however, is to ensure that our tribes live side by side, serve the needs of the country and continue building Israel together.”
Gantz is optimistic that Israel will continue to survive, “as long as Israel remains as it was designed 75 years ago, to be Jewish and democratic.”
“One cannot ignore what is going on with protests against what this government calls judicial reform. What we currently see in Israeli society is a wake-up call. Israeli society is fighting for its future image, that Israel should stay Jewish, and strongly democratic, should respect tradition but be a liberal country with an open mind,” Gantz said, but with limits on the government's power.
“I want to be prime minister of Israel, but I want limits on my government. I want an open media,” he said.
“A dynamic society, a resilient economy… a state that is truly a unicorn,” Gantz said of the Jewish state. “Every single day, Israelis deliver on the promise to ensure never again will we be dependent on the graces of others. After 2,000 years in exile, we are not simply free, we are thriving.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.