Blue & White leader Benny Gantz has been working hard to quash the claims by the Likud campaign that he is “weak left”.
On Monday he took that effort to the Golan Heights, where he pledged that Israel under his leadership would never leave the area that was captured from Syria in 1967.
On Wednesday, the new party published its full manifesto, which ruled out any further unilateral pullbacks from territory similar to the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.
Visiting the Golan with other members of the party, Mr Gantz said that “part of the reason we’re here is to remind the world that we will never return the Golan Heights and that Israel has sovereignty.”
He did not mention that a number of Israeli prime ministers in recent decades — Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu among them — all discussed with Syria’s Assad regime the possibility of an Israeli pullback as part of a comprehensive peace agreement.
One of the prominent candidates on Blue & White’s list, Tzvi Hauser, once Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, is the head of a group lobbying the United States and other foreign governments to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.
Blue & White’s path to power depends on attracting a sufficient number of right-wing voters in the April 9 election to deprive Mr Netanyahu’s coalition of right-wing and religious parties of its majority.
Aware of this, the Likud campaign has launched an effort to brand Mr Gantz and his partners as “weak left”. On Wednesday, they released a new online advertisement with a collection of quotes from Blue & White’s candidates, including Mr Gantz himself, supporting the eviction of settlements.
Blue & White pushed back this week in its manifesto with the clause ruling out another unilateral “disengagement” from territory held by Israel.
“There will not be a second disengagement,” it says. “A unilateral move necessarily leads the enemy to the conclusion that violent resistance has beaten us. Any historic diplomatic decision will either be brought to a national referendum or authorized by the Knesset by a special majority.”
On the Palestinian issue, the manifesto remain vague and does not present a solution to the conflict. It says that “we will convene an international conference with the Arab states which are interested in stability and deepen the process of separating from the Palestinians, while uncompromisingly safeguarding Israel’s security interests and the IDF’s freedom to act everywhere.”
Israel occupied two-thirds of the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. It effectively annexed the territory and incorporated it into Israel’s Northern District in December 1981. The move was subsequently unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council.