Former Israeli General Eisenkot to Go Into Politics, Mulls Alliance With Lapid

Former military chief Gadi Eisenkot, who retired in 2019, is expected to announce his decision only after the Israeli parliament is dissolved

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israel's former military chief Gadi Eisenkot in Tel Aviv in January.
Israel's former military chief Gadi Eisenkot in Tel Aviv in January.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's former military chief Gadi Eisenkot plans to go into politics and mulls joining Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, Haaretz has confirmed, as a deepening political crisis threatens the survival of the Bennett-Lapid government and may lead to an early election – which would be Israel's fifth in four years.

Eisenkot, who retired from the Israel Defense Forces in 2019, is expected to make a public announcement only after the Knesset is dissolved and an early election is called. His expected move was first reported Wednesday by Channel 13 News.

Lapid and Eisenkot were in talks about a potential joint run as early as two years ago, but the former military chief decided against a political career at that point. Now, with a new election on the horizon, Eisenkot appears to be interested in joining Lapid, Israel's foreign minister who was meant to replace Naftali Bennett as prime minister next year. But recent political troubles make it unlikely for the current government to complete its term.

Eisenkot was approached by other politicians, too, and he hasn't ruled out starting a new political platform. In that case, he is still expected to seek a joint run with an existing party, and would prefer not leading a party as he makes his first moves in national politics. Benny Gantz is the only former army chief who currently serves as a lawmaker.

On Wednesday, coalition member and United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas said that if Israel's political crisis isn't resolved he would back early elections.

“If we reach the conclusion that it’s impossible to maintain the coalition under these conditions, then I will propose to the coalition party heads to call for elections,” Abbas told Army Radio.

Israel’s justice minister said, in a series of interviews, he will give the government one final chance to approve a contentious bill extending legal protections to West Bank settlers in a last-ditch effort to keep the fractured coalition in power.

The bill was seen as a major test for the coalition, comprised of parties from across the political spectrum, and its defeat has raised questions about the government's long-term viability.

Emergency regulations in place for decades have created a separate legal system for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It applies parts of Israeli law to them – even though they live in occupied territory and not within sovereign Israeli land –while Palestinians live under military rule, now in its sixth decade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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