Former Israeli Army Chief Shuns Center-left in Plan to Form Own Party for Elections

Benny Gantz rules out the brand 'left' in any guise, eschewing both Zionist Union and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, but not rejecting notion of running with people outside established parties, such as fellow former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon

Benny Gantz in Rosh Ha'ayin, December 24, 2018.
Motti Milrod

Despite a poll giving a union between former military chief Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid 26 seats if an election were held now, Gantz is ramping up his efforts to put together an independent slate as soon as possible.

Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party has 11 of the 120 seats in the current Knesset, which is set to be dissolved before an April 9 election.

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According to political sources, in all conversations that Gantz and his associates have had with the political parties in recent days, Gantz’s side has objected to an electoral alliance. Gantz would not unite with Zionist Union, whose main component is the Labor Party, under any circumstances, sources said.

Gantz has two weeks to submit a request to register a new party; this would give him enough time to complete the registration process before the deadline for submitting a list of candidates.

Gantz, however, is not rejecting the notion of running with people who are not part of existing parties, like Orli Levi-Abekasis or former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Either way, Gantz plans to head and dominate his party.

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Gantz’s party would be branded a “moderate and responsible centrist party.” The word “left” would not be mentioned, not even as center-left, sources said. Gantz has yet to employ any significant staff, though he has chatted with several prominent media advisers.

On Tuesday, Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker reported that Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay had told Gantz that if he joined the party he could head the ticket. Journalist Ben Caspit has reported something similar. According to Channel 10, Gantz refused the offer.

Zionist Union sources strongly denied that an offer had been made. There does not appear to be anything that would get Gabbay to change his opinion that since he won the Labor primary he is authorized to head the Zionist Union list in the coming election.