Palestinians warm to Netanyahu rival, citing signs of compromise

Netanyahu's Main Electoral Rival Calls for Abandoning Control Over Palestinians

Gantz's Israel Resilience party, which was formed in December, is expected to win between 21 and 24 seats in the 120-member parliament in the April 9 election, according to the latest opinion polls.

He has so far said little about the Palestinian issue, or whether he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"We need to find a way in which we're not controlling other people", the former chief of general staff of the Israel Defense Forces said in an interview with the newspaper.

With peace talks frozen throughout most of Mr Netanyahu's decade-long rule, Mr Gantz's comments were welcomed by Palestinians.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, praised "the signs coming from Gantz about settlements", calling them a step in the right direction should he win the election and prove "willing and ready" for peace. Critics of the Gaza move highlight that the Palestinian enclave immediately became a launching pad for rockets targeting Israel and two years later was conquered by Hamas in an internecine war against Abbas' Fatah faction.

The Israeli candidate didn't mention the Palestinian people, but he said "we must take the lessons from the disengagement and implement them in other areas", applauding its execution that was conducted "in a painful way, but a good one".

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His opponents quickly lambasted him. Netanyahu's Likud party accused Gantz of planning to form a "leftist government" with the help of Israeli Arab parties that have pro-Palestinian sympathies.

"Gantz has thrown off the mask and overtaken Avi Gabbay (of the centre-left Labour party). and wants to expel Jews from their homes through a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)", Bennett said. Mr Gantz was commanding the military at the time. However, his political future faces some uncertainty ahead of an anticipated announcement by the attorney general on whether the prime minister is to be indicted amid multiple corruption investigations in which Netanyahu has been implicated by police.

Near final results published Wednesday showed former Cabinet minister Gideon Saar finishing third in the internal party vote.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein came in first and second after Netanyahu.

However, Yesh Atid sources are now denying that Lapid would be drawn into a joint campaign, insisting that he represents the only alternative to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.

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