Benny Gantz
Benny Gantz Elad Malka

Defense Minister Benny Gantz stressed on Friday that he has no intention of being part of a government headed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking in an interview on the Ofira & Berkovic program which airs on Channel 12, Gantz said his goal is to lead a wide national unity government after the November 1 election.

“I went to a unity government with Netanyahu and paid a very heavy personal and political price at a time when the country needed it the most. What more can be done for the man to keep his word and put the interests of the state ahead of his own? That is why I will not go with him. I will work to establish a unity government based on everyone that is located to my left," he said.

"In the last four years, one thing has happened - Bibi has never reached 61 seats since I joined politics. Things have happened here that one could not believe, who would have thought that Bennett and Ayelet Shaked would sit with Meretz? We strive to achieve our positions, we serve the entire public in Israel - Jewish and not Jewish, religious and secular, we are in favor of the Jewish tradition and against religious coercion. We are creating the statesmanlike center. If Bibi gets 61 [seats required to form a government], it doesn't matter what we say here. If he doesn't achieve 61, I believe that I will form the government."

"We have three scenarios. One scenario is that Bibi will have 61 seats and, in such a case, an extreme government will be formed that is not good for the State of Israel. There could be a transitional government until a sixth election led by Yair Lapid, who is currently sitting in the Prime Minister's office. The third option is that I, with the National Unity party and all the parties that join, will succeed in establishing a broad unity government. That's what I'm striving for, and that's what I'm trying to do."

Asked about the fact that polls predict that he and Itamar Ben Gvir will win the same number of seats, Gantz said, "I think the danger of extremism and racism is bad for the public. Are we for a moment comparing the security understanding of Ben Gvir or Smotrich with what I or Gadi Eizenkot know to offer?"

On the question of whether Israel could be headed toward another round of fighting before the election, he said, "I hope not. I think we need to continue our activity and in my eyes there are two anchors. One, to continue to act operationally and offensively as much as is necessary everywhere and we will not stop ourselves. Two, to continue to build ourselves as a country. I think that terrorism has never defeated us."

On the nuclear deal with Iran, the Defense Minister noted, "We as the State of Israel think that this agreement is not good. There are many holes in it and we are talking about it with the Americans and the Europeans. We are trying to influence the agreement and also reserve for ourselves the necessity to continue building force. For the past two years, I have been constantly engaged in building power in all arenas including Iran - helicopters, refuelers, planes, training, security ties and everything needed for this matter. We need to continue building the force and preserve our freedom of action."

Asked whether he believes a nuclear deal with Iran will ultimately be reached, Gantz replied, "There may be an agreement with Iran, I don't know if it will happen in the near future or if it will be delayed a bit due to a whole range of developments. It is important that we understand this story because sometimes the headlines obscure this fact - we are the most powerful country in the Middle East. We will remain so with or without an agreement. Nothing will change that fact."

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)