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Israel’s nationality law takes over election campaign

The courageous statement by former IDF Chief Benny Gantz about amending the nationality law brought the issue back to the public agenda and to the election campaign.
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The head of the National Resilience Party, former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, stepped out of his home on Jan. 14 to address the Druze activists demonstrating outside. He promised them that he would work to amend the controversial nationality law (anchoring the Jewish nature of the State of Israel). Then he went back inside and momentarily resumed his silence. He may have been taken aback by the vicious attacks that right-wing parties, led by the Likud, organized against him. He was lambasted almost as soon as he opened his mouth with claims that by saying what he said (against the nationality law), he had revealed his true colors and exposed himself as a “leftist.” In the 2019 election, the term “leftist,” more than ever before, had become synonymous with the betrayal of national values. It doesn’t matter if the person in question is a former chief of staff who spent most of his adult life in a combat position in the IDF.

The Likud had been waiting for its chance to paint Gantz as the leftist du jour as soon as he stood out in the polls as the only candidate to challenge Netanyahu when gauged for suitability to serve as prime minister. Furthermore, his military past posed a threat by making him an attractive candidate to the soft right. However, as long as Gantz maintained his silence as part of a strategy to position himself (like late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin) as a centrist with right-wing tendencies, the Likud had a hard time attacking him. But when Gantz met with the Druze demonstrators waiting outside his home in Rosh HaAyin, that was the green light that the right had been waiting for. Knesset members and ministers alike used his remarks to condemn him. Gantz wants to amend the nationality law, they warned. That means he’s a leftist.

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