“I spent about 38 years fighting in the Israeli army. And believe me, the generals in the army, who have seen and experienced the horrors of war, are the ones who want peace the most,” said Israel's Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Gantz tackled a multitude of questions about peace in the Middle East and revealed that he had already been to a majority of Arab states with clandestine visits as part of his military service and said he would love to go on an official tour.
On the issue of Jerusalem, Gantz stressed that he "believes in the full equality for Arab citizens and their participation in government," and that the city must remain undivided.
He, however, noted that there will be room for a Palestinian capital.
“Jerusalem must stay united, but it will have place for a Palestinian capital,” he said. “It's a vast city, filled with sites that are holy to all of us.”
“We want the Palestinians to have a suitable geographical extension that enables them to lead a comfortable life without obstacles,” he explained.
Gantz also said that he does not see peace in the Middle East without settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first. The centrist leader added that Israel will not withdraw to pre-1967 borders but the sides can reach a compromise.
Speaking on the subject of peacemaking and normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, Gantz said that the Palestinians must remain actively involved.
"I want Palestinians to be part of the peace process. The push for normalization within the Arab world is a great and real opportunity," he said.
He warned against what he called the "Iranian axis" in the region, saying it posed a threat for both Israel and Arab states and pointing at countries like Syria and Lebanon as examples of its corruptive influence.
These days, Gantz is fighting a bitter battle with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that could topple the government and lead to early elections.
Early elections can prove detrimental for the Blue and White centrist party which is led by Gantz.
Despite the ruinous prospects for the party, Gantz is being pressured into rejecting Netanyahu’s conditions and exiting the government.
It is worth noting that the interview with Gantz took place in his office at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv and at the height of the tug-of-war going on between him and Netanyahu.
Both, Netanyahu and Gantz were hoping for the other to make concessions before time ran out and they were faced with unwanted early elections.
Gantz, for his part, predicted that the status quo will remain the same given that Netanyahu is showing no willingness whatsoever to settle disputes.
He considered running in the elections a “matter of national responsibility.”
Even though prospects are dim for the Blue and White party, Gantz sounded optimistic about the tables turning.
“Twenty percent of the electorate has not decided how to vote. I believe that we will get a third of them, and that we will take back a portion of the voters who left us,” he noted.
When asked about Israel’s economic and political stability, Gantz said he doesn’t believe that it was in danger.