JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz walked out of a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu after learning that a close Likud Party associate of the prime minister’s said he is not ready to lead the country.
Miri Regev, the transportation minister, said of Gantz in an interview with the Hebrew Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot that “I think he is not ready to be prime minister. He is not ready. Let’s see what happens over the next year and a half. We’ll see if he learns from the best and comes ready for the job.” Excerpts of the interview were published Wednesday.
Regev has been designated to serve as foreign minister when Gantz becomes prime minister in 18 months under the unity government agreement. She is among Netanyahu’s closest associates in Likud.
Gantz cut his Wednesday meeting with Netanyahu short and demanded an apology.
Likud later issued a statement saying “The campaign is over and it’s time for unity. It’s time to stop the personal attacks on both sides. The elections are behind us, joint tasks lay ahead of us and we must join hands for the sake of the citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu reportedly sent a message to Gantz saying that Regev’s remarks were “unacceptable.” He also called Regev and privately rebuked her for the statement, Israel’s Channel 12 reported.
Ynet, the website affiliated with the newspaper, reported, however, that political observers believe that Regev’s statements were coordinated with Netanyahu as the opening salvo in an attempt to create a split between the two men and prevent the rotation of Gantz into the premiership as part of the coalition deal.
Regev said Wednesday that her statements were taken out of context. A more in-depth article was set to be published Thursday in the newspaper’s holiday edition for Shavuot.