Benny Gantz
Benny Gantz Sariah Diament

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party and is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s primary challenger in next month’s Knesset election, ruled out the possibility of joining a unity government with the Likud, rejecting claims he made statements to the contrary.

On Monday, Channel 13 reported that Gantz had been recorded saying that he might, under the right conditions, go back on his prior pledge not to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition.

In the recordings, Gantz can be heard explaining his previous vow not to sit with Netanyahu, conditioning the promise. "I chose the phrase 'in the current situation', so as not to close the door and lock it. It is closed, but not locked. Now as we have seen, life is dynamic, the situation can change. Trump will submit his plan, I will win. Ok, now what?" Gantz said in the recording.

But on Tuesday, Gantz said he stood by his initial promise not to sit with Netanyahu in the next government.

“I am saying – not on some anonymously recorded tape – but openly and explicitly: I will not sit with Netanyahu in the government.”

Gantz claimed that the recording of him saying he could potentially sit in a Netanyahu government was made before the full details of the pending indictments against the Prime Minister were released in their entirety.

“What was said in the recording was said before the full details of the serious charges against Netanyahu were released, and certainly, before it was revealed that he had received 16 million shekels in a deal tied to the [purchase of] submarines and lied to the public about serious security issues.”

But Channel 13 disputed at least part of Gantz’s claim, saying that the recording had been made just after the attorney general’s announcement regarding the indictments against Netanyahu.

“The things Gantz said in the recording were said after the press briefing on the evening when the charges against Netanyahu were announced, on the 28th of February,’ said Channel 13’s Sefi Ovadia.

On Sunday, the Blue and White party accused Netanyahu of receiving some 16 million shekels ($4.5 million) in a deal tied to the purchase of submarines from the German firm Thyssenkrupp.

The allegation, which has yet to be confirmed by authorities, has been tied to the Case 3000 investigation, one of a number of police probes into claims of suspected bribery by the Prime Minister.

Unlike in the Case 1000, 2000, and 4000 investigations, however, police found no basis for charges against Netanyahu in the Thyssenkrupp case. The primary suspicions in Cases 1000 and 2000, centering around bribery, have also been dropped from the indictments against Netanyahu, leaving only fraud and breach of trust charges in both cases.

Netanyahu may also face bribery charges in connection with the Case 4000 investigation – which revolves around claims he regulatory changes which would benefit the Bezeq telecommunications company, owned by Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for favorable coverage from a news site owned by Elovitch.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will make a final determination on the bribery charges after a hearing with Netanyahu.

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