Political analyst JAMES MARLOW brings The Jewish Weekly his election report and latest news briefs. An updated poll table will be published next week.
The party that registered up to 16 seats in some polls, even though its leader refused to say one word on where he stood on any issue, whether on security, social, economic, religion or foreign affairs, officially launched their platform this week.
Former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz, vowed to unite the country and end the “kingship” of Netanyahu who is seeking his fifth term as Prime Minister.
Speaking before a cheering crowd in Tel Aviv, the campaign for his Israel Resilience party was shown live by the evening news network shows, in great anticipation to what Benny Gantz’s might actually say, after a long-held silence. But in the end, most of it was predicted by the political pundits.
In his speech, Gantz thanked Netanyahu for his last 10 years of service as Prime Minister and said, “We’ll take it from here.”
As he laid out a laundry list of stances from backing and strengthening settlement blocs to striving for peace, Gantz said that while he does not promise peace, he will achieve peace amongst Israelis. The left right divide in Israel is today huge, with great animousity towards each other’s entrenched positions.
While not ruling out sitting in a government under Netanyahu, he made clear he would not back the premier if an indictment against him is filed. Gantz also said that he has zero tolerance for corruption.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce in the coming weeks whether he will indict Prime Minister Netanyahu on corruption charges ahead of elections on April 9, pending a hearing.
It could be several months until actual charges are filed, if at all, and Gantz’s statement left open the door for joining a government led by Netanyahu in the interim.
Gantz also said an Israeli presence will remain in the Jordan Valley and on the Golan, and that Israel would not stand by in the face of a threat to its sovereignty by Iran and its proxies.
At the end of his speech, Gantz announced a political alliance with Moshe Ya’alon who was his former commander and boss. Ya’alon became defence minister as a Likud member, but quit the party vowing to stand for Prime Minister against Netanyahu, after the premier replaced him with Avigdor Lieberman.
However whilst Gantz’s, Israel Resilience party is currently polling around 12 seats, Ya’alon’s Telem party would not reach the necessary 3.75% of votes to enter the Knesset. This alliance therefore ensures the two former General’s will be Knesset members, with Ya’alon’s party receiving the second, eighth and twelve slots on the list.
Gantz is seen as the strongest challenger to Netanyahu since the 2015 election and polls are positioning him as a possible leader of a centre-left bloc.
While Netanyahu has led polls with an average of 29 to 30 seats, the Likud’s nearest competitors are averaging just 12 to 13 seats.
But a new poll conducted by TNS Teleseker showed if former IDF Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi would join Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience, making it the “General’s Party,” it would garner more than 20 seats.
According to the poll, if this party would then form an alliance with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah faction to former a centre to left bloc, the alliance would defeat the Likud, winning by 34 seats to just 26 for the Likud.
In addition if former premier and another former IDF Chief of Staff, Ehud Barak would also join the grand alliance, the new list would win a massive 40 seats.
Of course this number still falls short of a majority in the Knesset so deals would still have to be done with either the smaller parties or maybe the Likud or Labour and this would be equally challenging.
The problem with this “grand alliance” bloc is Yair Lapid insists he wishes to run for Prime Minister and would only enter this type of a deal if he is made number one. So the parties are all united to stop Netanyahu from becoming Prime Minister for a fifth time – they just want to become Prime Minister themselves, and the infighting continues to the disappointment of their supporters.
ELECTION NEWS BRIEFS:
Speaking at an event to launch the Shas 2019 election campaign, party head, Aryeh Deri said the Sephardi charadi faction will endorse incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for an unprecedented fifth term, even if he is indicted on corruption charges.
Ayelet Shaked, who is the number two on The New Right party led by Naftali Bennett, made a surprise appearance in the charadi city of Bnei Brak, looking to attract votes from right-wing rival parties. Officials from The New Right said they were targeting right-leaning supporters of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party and the newly formed Israel Resilience party, led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.
Bayit Yehudi who is struggling to meet the minimum threshold of votes to return to the Knesset, after Bennett and Shaked left to form their own party, offered deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely of the Likud, the leadership role. Hotovely said she turned down the multiple offers, even though leading yeshiva deans said she should lead the Religious Zionist movement as she grew up within its community. “The Likud, ultimately, is the ideal political home for the Religious Zionist community” Hotovely said and that she is looking to become Minister of Education.
Reserve Brigadier General Gal Hirsch launched his new party called Magen (Shield), where he declared that he wants to be the next Minister for Public Security. Hirsch was blocked from becoming police commissioner four years ago, which he claimed was a deliberate act by senior police officers and that now the public has lost faith in the institution. Hirsch says his new faction is a right wing social security party promising to work for quality and a proud police force.
Sources say Nissam Slomiansky who now leads the Bayit Yehudi party has called upon Gal Hirsch to join forces for the election campaign.
- Pressure is growing for former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to enter the political ring with his fellow former Chief of Staff’s Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya’alon to form the General’s Party. Ashkenazi is also being sought after by Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction.
By James Marlow