June 15, 2023
On the same day terrorists shot and wounded five Israelis including four soldiers near Mevo Dotan in the northern West Bank, Israel’s National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, who formerly served as Israel’s Defense Minister, Alternate Prime Minister, and as IDF Chief of Staff, laid out the latest struggles facing the Jewish people and the Jewish state in an address at AJC Global Forum 2023 in Tel Aviv.
As antisemitism rises sharply around the globe, Gantz said the governments that stand up to it give him hope and he thanked AJC for spearheading those measures. In particular, he thanked AJC CEO Ted Deutch for organizing, when he was in Congress, the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism that has remained strong even after his departure.
He also thanked the Biden administration for publishing the first ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, which included dozens of recommendations from AJC.
“Time has come for Israel to shift gears on this issue as well,” he said. “Every embassy needs to be measured by its efforts in mitigating antisemitism. Every community needs to be equipped with the right tools and every meeting with world leaders needs to address this pressing issue in combating antisemitism.”
Here are three other takeaways from Gantz’s address.
1) Every Jew should be proud
Gantz expressed heartache that antisemitism and racism have led some Diaspora Jews to isolate themselves from Israel and their Jewish community at home.
According to AJC’s Survey of American Millennial Jews last year, 70% of American Millennial Jews believe a strong Israel is somewhat or very necessary for the survival of the Jewish people, compared to 80% of Israel’s Millennial Jews.
“Unfortunately, a growing number of Jewish youth feel less connected to Israel today,” he said. “They grow up hearing horrible lies about it. Every Jew around the world must know they have so much to be proud of. They must know that Israel will always be ready to welcome them no matter what and we must ensure that every Jew has a place physically and spiritually in Israel. We must take action so every single young Jew understands Israel and so every Israeli better understands the diaspora.”
2) Iran is an existential threat
As Iran gets closer to becoming a nuclear threshold state and funnels money to terror proxies around the world including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Houthis in Yemen, Israel faces an existential threat.
But Iran’s belligerence doesn’t just affect Israel. It affects the entire Middle East region and countries around the globe.
“With a nuclear umbrella, Iran will lead to a potential arms race in the Middle East and a rise of Iranian aggression around the world,” he said. “I truly hope the world will act before that time comes. This is a struggle of every Israeli citizen and every global citizen. It has its hardships, yet it also has its hopes for new alliances and cooperation with our neighbors.”
3) Commitment to Building Consensus
Gantz said this week that his party will set politics aside to reach a compromise on judicial reforms that have divided Israeli society in recent months.
“My personal commitment is to bring all sides to a personal understanding,” he said. “There must not be any winners. If we succeed in this complex mission, we will emerge stronger than before for the sake of a resilient and united Israel, for the sake of all democratic Jewish liberal, strong and just Israeli society.
“Our most important struggle is to prosper and live together and for all the Jewish people to continue to be a free people in our homeland,” he said. “It’s a struggle that unites us all.”