Former IDF Chief Eisenkot Decides to Sit Out Upcoming Israeli Election

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Gadi Eisenkot in Tel Aviv, January 22, 2020
Gadi Eisenkot in Tel Aviv, January 22, 2020Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot has informed political parties leaders that he has decided not to run in Israel's upcoming March election.

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Eisenkot considered entering politics, and a long list of party leaders have reached out to the former chief of staff recent weeks – including Gideon Sa’ar, who was one of the sponsors of the law that would keep him out of the cabinet for now.

An election poll published in early December gave a party led by Eisenkot 15 Knesset seats that would also weaken the right-wing bloc.

Eisenkot finished his term as chief of staff in January 2019 and was officially discharged from the army three months later. Two Knesset elections have been held since his retirement, allowing him to contend in the proposed upcoming election if he so chooses.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn on Wednesday morning resigned from the government after leaving Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan in order to join a new party formed by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

In his resignation letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nissenkorn wrote: “In light of the request of the Alternate Prime Minister, I would like to inform you of my resignation as Justice Minister.”

Following Nissenkorn's decision to step down from the party on Tuesday, Gantz reportedly asked that Nissenkorn resign from his role as justice minister, and is expected to take over the role himself, instead of appointing somebody else to take over the position before the March election. 

In his letter to Gantz, Nissenkorn wrote, he described Netanyahu's attacks on the rule of law as "a personal struggle, of one man, who seeks to tighten his stranglehold around the system to intimidate it for his personal legal considerations. This reality requires further vigilance. In the struggle for Israeli democracy, we have no choice but to win."

Before the dissolution of the Knesset, Gantz initially agreed to curb Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn's powers, and the relations between the two continued to sour.

Gantz’s spokespeople described Nissenkorn as a “traitor” who “stuck a knife in our back,” and said “Huldai should watch his back” after his resignation from the party on Tuesday.