WASHINGTON (JTA) — Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival in elections next month, signaled that he would expand organized prayer access to the Western Wall for non-Orthodox streams.
Gantz told the annual AIPAC policy conference that the Jerusalem holy site could accommodate all Jews.
“In Bergen Belsen, no one asked who is Reform and who is Conservative, who is Orthodox and who is secular,” Gantz, who heads the centrist Blue and White party, said Monday. “Before going into battle I never checked to see who had kippah under their helmets. … The Western Wall is long enough to accommodate everyone.” That prompted a standing ovation from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee crowd.
Netanyahu has reneged on pledges to expand access for organized prayer by non-Orthodox Jews at the site.
Gantz echoed Netanyahu policies in a number of areas, including on Iran, when he said he would act to limit its influence in the region, and on peace talks with Palestinians — like Netanyahu, Gantz said he would insist on Israeli security control of the West Bank.
But he lambasted Netanyahu for striking a vote-sharing deal with a far-right party, Jewish Power, that has its roots in the racist teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
“There will be no Kahanists running our country,” Gantz said. “There will be no racists leading our state institutions.”