Blue and White supporters, hopeful for the premiership of Israel Benny Gantz, raised eyebrows last week when he compared Premier Binyamin Netanyahu to Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“What we do see is a phenomenon reminiscent of Turkey, where Erdogan is protecting himself from investigations and from other efforts aimed at preventing corruption,” Gantz toldTimes of Israel founder and editor-in-chief David Horovitz.
“You really fear the State of Israel could become like Turkey?” Horovitz asked Gantz.
“Yes, and we are headed there. I am very worried about it,” Gantz answered without blinking an eye.
Gantz then seemed to be backtracking on his outrageous accusation by pointing to Jewish democratic history and the tradition of open debate which started back in pre-Talmudic times.
The Blue and White leader, nevertheless, doubled down on his claim that Netanyahu was turning Israel into a second Turkey, the country where the Kurdish minority is brutally oppressed, journalists and academics are jailed by the droves and where Erdogan has transformed his country into the second Islamic Republic.
“What did Erdogan do? He made sure that you can’t investigate him, and you can’t put him on trial, and not his family either. You are going to get the Israeli version of the Turkish system. It won’t be the same, it will be something like it. That’s what will happen here,” Gantz warned.
Asked again if he really thinks Israel’s future as a democratic country is at stake if Netanyahu is re-elected, Gantz pointed to ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet and the Prime Minister himself who are, according to Gantz, undermining Israel’s democratic character by attacking state institutions.
It wasn’t the first time Gantz didn’t make good on his promise, repeated during the same interview, that he would be a “positive alternative” to the current leadership and would refrain from mudslinging and would keep “the high ground” in his campaign.
After launching his Israel Resilience Party last February, Gantz let loose a blistering below-the-belt attack on Netanyahu, who he described as a US-trained fake who spent his time learning flawless English and attending cocktail parties in the US while he, Gantz, was risking his life in trenches with IDF soldiers.
Netanyahu condemned the attack as “shameful”, and pointed to his participation in daring IDF operations as a member of the Sayeret Matkal elite combat unit of the Israel Defense Forces and the injuries he suffered during battles with Israel’s enemies.
To understand how wrong Gantz was when he compared Netanyahu to Erdogan one only has to look at Erdogan’s political track record.
Erdogan slowly transformed secular and democratic Turkey into an Islamist country where freedom of press and speech are a thing of the past. The Turkish strongman also interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, including Israel where he is trying to turn Jerusalem into a bastion of Islamists and aids terrorist groups hell-bent on the destruction of the Jewish state.
The Turkish dictator used a botched coup, which some say was a false flag operation, to start a massive crackdown on political opponents which is continuing to this day and even goes as far as chasing down and intimidating opponents of his regime in Western countries.
The best example of this was the harassment of US citizens in Washington June 2017, when Erdogan’s security detail kicked and punched demonstrators near the Turkish embassy in Washington after he returned from a disappointing meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Erdogan also betrayed his allies in NATO when he purchased the Russian S-400 missile shield and threatened to lay siege on the Incirlik NATO base after the botched coup, citing CIA involvement in the attempt to overthrow his regime.
The current Muslim Brotherhood chief is responsible for the oppression of Christians in Turkey and is even threatening foreign journalists who dare to expose his crimes against humanity and his expansionist policies in the Middle East, as I can testify.
In 2016, six years after the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish lawyer affiliated with the Erdogan regime sent a threatening letter to my former employer The Western Journal in Arizona, USA in which the regime demanded I apologize for and correct a report of the raid on the Turkish ship by Israeli naval commandos.
My ‘crime’ was I had written that Turks belonging to the IHH organization in Turkey, an Islamist organization affiliated with Erdogan’s AKP party, had initiated the violence on the Mavi Marmara by using iron rods and knives to attack Israeli soldiers who boarded the vessel.
I later was informed that it was dangerous for me to board a plane to Istanbul because of the risk that the Turkish regime would arrest me.
If we now take a look at Gantz’ accusation that Netanyahu is turning Israel into a new Turkey because he and other ministers in his cabinet are ‘attacking’ state institutions and media or are defending themselves against corruption charges, we will see how dead wrong the Blue and White leader was and how he showed he hasn’t a clue about what’s going on in Turkey.
As Ruthie Blum pointed out in a column for The Jerusalem Post, the ‘dangerous trend’ Gantz signaled in Israeli politics “is actually a positive progression in a system based on the will of the people, not the whim of despots like Erdogan.”
Israelis enjoy free speech but don’t want their tax money spend on art which portrays them as criminals Blum wrote what she did in reference to Culture Minister Miri Regev’s policy of halting state-funding of artists or art projects which distort the truth about Israeli society or the Israeli army.
Israelis also support efforts by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to curb the power of a Supreme Court which intervenes in political matters or overturns democratic decisions taken by the government and the Knesset.
As for Netanyahu’s alleged attempts to crack down on the freedom of the press in Israel, law experts have pointed out that the charges brought against Netanyahu by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit endanger Israeli democracy, not the PM’s attempts to get more favorable coverage from staunchly anti-Netanyahu media outlets.
Professor Alan Dershowitz warned that these charges would open a Pandora\s box of horribles since every government official who seeks more positive coverage by the press and then did something which would help the media would become subject to police investigation.
Gantz has said that Israel deserves a leader who is more “statesmanlike and serious”. Someone who tries “to maintain the high ground as far as possible”
The former IDF Chief of Staff’s interview with The Times of Israel made clear he has a lot to learn before he is able to become that statesman and obviously cannot compete with the man he wants to replace as the Prime Minister of Israel.
After all, even Gantz admitted during the same interview Netanyahu has done “fine things” for Israel.