Benjamin Gantz (Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִין "בֵּנִי" גַּנְץ, Transliterated: Binyāmīn "Bēnī" Ganṣ; born 9 June 1959) is an Israeli politician and retired army general serving as Minister of Defense since 2020 and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel since 2021. He previously served as the Alternate Prime Minister of Israel from 2020 to 2021.
|1st Alternate Prime Minister of Israel|
17 May 2020 – 13 June 2021
|Prime Minister||Benjamin Netanyahu|
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Succeeded by||Yair Lapid|
|2020–||Minister of Defense|
|2021||Minister of Justice|
|2021–||Deputy Prime Minister|
|Faction represented in the Knesset|
|2019–||Blue and White|
|2011–2015||Chief of the General Staff|
|2020||Speaker of the Knesset|
9 June 1959
Kfar Ahim, Israel
|Political party||Blue and White (2019–present)|
|Alma mater||Tel Aviv University|
University of Haifa
National Defense University
|Branch/service||Israel Defense Forces|
|Years of service||1977–2015|
|Awards||Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)|
He served as the 20th chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015. In December 2018, he entered politics by establishing a new political party named Israel Resilience. The party later allied itself with Telem and Yesh Atid to form Blue and White (Hebrew: Kaḥol Lavan), the colours of the Israeli national flag. Gantz's Blue and White alliance platform includes introducing prime ministerial term limits, barring indicted politicians from serving in the Knesset, amending the nation-state law to include Israeli minorities, limiting the power of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel over marriages, investing in early education, expanding health care, and re-entering negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement.
Gantz was the 17th Speaker of the Knesset from 26 March 2020 to 17 May 2020. On 20 April 2020, Gantz agreed to join a rotation government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under the terms of the agreement, Gantz would serve as Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, before succeeding Netanyahu as Prime Minister of Israel in November 2021. However, the coalition collapsed, resulting in another election in 2021. As defense minister, Gantz was in charge of Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza. In June 2021, he was reappointed Defense Minister and became Deputy Prime Minister.
Benjamin Gantz was born in Kfar Ahim, Israel, in 1959. His mother Malka was a Holocaust survivor, originally from Mezőkovácsháza, Hungary. His father Nahum came from Sovata, Székely Land, Romania, and was arrested by the British authorities for trying to enter Palestine illegally, before reaching Israel. His parents were among the founders of Moshav Kfar Ahim, a cooperative agricultural community in south-central Israel. In his youth, he attended the Shafir High School in Merkaz Shapira, and boarding school at the HaKfar HaYarok youth village in Ramat HaSharon.
Gantz is a graduate of the IDF Command and Staff College and the National Security College. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Tel Aviv University, a master's degree in political science from the University of Haifa, and an additional master's degree in National Resources Management from the National Defense University in the United States. Gantz is married to Revital, with whom he has four children. He lives in Rosh HaAyin.
In February 2011, following the government decision to promote Gantz to Chief of the General Staff, Attorney Avi'ad Vissuli of the Forum for the Land of Israel unsuccessfully petitioned to revoke the appointment.
In February 2019, an Israeli-American woman accused Gantz of exposing himself to her 40 years earlier, causing her traumatic disorders. Gantz denied all allegations, claiming that such an incident never took place, and that the allegations were politically motivated. Gantz has since sued the woman for defamation.
Gantz was drafted into the IDF in 1977. He volunteered as a paratrooper in the Paratroopers Brigade. His first mission as a young conscript in 1977 was as part of the security detail for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel. As a paratrooper, he fought in Operation Litani in March 1978 and also participated in a June 1978 raid against a Fatah training base in Lebanon. In 1979, Gantz became an officer after completing Officer Candidate School. He returned to the Paratroopers Brigade and served as a platoon leader and company commander, completed a course in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and fought in the First Lebanon War.
Later on, he led 890 "Efe" (Echis) paratroop battalion in counter-guerrilla operations in the South Lebanon security zone. In 1991, he commanded the commando unit that was on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for 36 hours, securing the Operation Solomon airlift of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He served in senior command positions during the Second Intifada and Second Lebanon War.
In the course of his military career, Gantz served as commander of the Shaldag Unit in the Israeli Air Force; commander of the 35th Paratroopers Brigade; commander of the Reserves Division in the Northern Command; commander of the Lebanon Liaison Unit; commander of the Judea and Samaria Division in 2000, before becoming the commander of the Israeli Northern Command in 2001; and as Israel's military attaché in the United States from 2005 until 2009, before becoming the deputy chief of the General Staff.
Following the canceled appointment of previous nominee Aluf Yoav Galant, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on 5 February 2011 that he would be recommending to the government that Gantz be appointed the 20th Chief of the General Staff (after the pending approval by the Turkel Advisory Committee on Senior Appointments and a government vote). Gantz had already been in the process of an honorable discharge from his army service.
On 13 February 2011, the Israeli government unanimously approved Gantz to be the next IDF chief of staff. According to The Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Gantz was an "excellent officer and experienced commander, and had rich operational and logistical experience, with all the attributes needed to be a successful army commander".
On 14 February 2011, Gantz returned to the IDF and assumed command as the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. He served for the required three years and was nominated for a fourth year, which he agreed to fulfill, followed by retirement.
In his first year as Chief of the General Staff, Gantz appointed the IDF's first-ever female major-general, Orna Barbivai. In July 2011, Gantz appointed a special committee to address a controversy that had developed concerning mention of the word Elohim, "God", in the military Yizkor prayer. The committee determined that a disputed passage should read Yizkor 'Am Yisrael, "May the Nation of Israel remember", and not Yizkor Elohim, "May God remember". Gantz upheld the committee's ruling.
Gantz was the chairman of the Fifth Dimension, a computer security and law enforcement technology company, which specialized in tracking via smartphone spyware. The company closed due to financial reasons, after its Russian investor Viktor Vekselberg was sanctioned under CAATSA by the United States during the Special Counsel investigation into Russian attempts to interfere with the US election, led by Robert Mueller.
In December 2018, Gantz announced the formation of a new political party, but did not originally disclose his views or name of the organization. Polls demonstrated fluctuating support for the party. On 27 December 2018, Gantz formally established the Israel Resilience Party ("Hosen LeYisrael" in Hebrew), which ran in the April 2019 Israeli legislative election.
In his first major political speech on 29 January 2019, Gantz pledged to strengthen Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank and said that Israel would never leave the Golan Heights. He neither endorsed nor rejected a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. "The Jordan Valley will be our border, but we won't let millions of Palestinians living beyond the fence to endanger our identity as a Jewish state," he said. At the end of his speech, Gantz announced an electoral alliance with former minister of defense and IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon.
Gantz helped formulate a unilateral separation plan for the Institute for National Security Studies calling for the unilateral creation of a contiguous Palestinian "entity" on 65% of the West Bank and a freeze on construction in settlements outside the major settlement blocs expected to be retained in a future peace agreement in order to stave off the perceived threat of a one-state solution, which the plan termed as being an existential threat to Israel, along with a nuclear Iran.
On 17 February 2019, at the Munich Security Conference, Gantz enumerated the main challenges of the West as "extremist Iran, Islamic terror, and regional instability". Gantz criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to bar U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, saying that Omar and Tlaib would have seen that the West Bank is "the second best place" for Arabs in the Middle East. In December 2021, Gantz described the Islamic Republic of Iran as "the biggest threat to the global and regional peace and stability".
There were three elections between March 2019 and March 2020 leading to constitutional crisis in Israel. After the September 2019 election, Gantz was mandated to form a government and failed. In March the following year, after losing a few seats, he was again given a mandate. Talks to form a coalition led to a Netanyahu government. On 26 March 2020, Gantz was elected as Knesset speaker, replacing Likud's Yuli-Yoel Edelstein who resigned. This decision was opposed by his coalition since Gantz previously focused on promises in his campaigns to oust Netanyahu from office, and vowed that he would not serve under 'corrupt leader' who faced criminal charges. Despite agreeing to take part in Netanyahu-led coalition government in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gantz would again express opposition to Netanyahu's annexation plans. On 29 June 2020, Gantz said the Israeli Prime Minister should instead put the COVID-19 pandemic first.
Brig. Gen. Orna Barbivay will be promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed Head of the Personnel Directorate, replacing Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, who will end his service in the IDF.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has promoted the first female major general in its 63-year history, a military spokesman announced Thursday night.
The IDF will retain the original wording of the Yizkor memorial prayer with 'Yizkor Am Yisrael' (May the People of Israel Remember), and not 'Yizkor Elohim' (May God Remember), a military committee tasked with ruling on the issue announced on Thursday.