After the fanfare had died down and the colorful confetti was sent for recycling, work has begun in earnest in Benny Gantz‘s campaign. After the festive and (in their eyes) successful launch event on Tuesday night, officials in the Israel Resilience Party said that the momentum from the former IDF chief’s speech will be hard to maintain for long. “Additional actions will be requires to ‘keep Gantz floating’ and to turn him into a candidate who could go head-to-head with Netanyahu,” one party official said.
The coming days will see many dramatic polls: how did Gantz’s speech affect the number of Knesset seat his party is expected to get in the upcoming elections? Will his decision to join forces with former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon bring more Knesset seat than either of them could bring in separately (assuming you count Knesset seats even if there aren’t enough of them to pass the electoral threshold)?
After the event, the feeling at the Gantz campaign is hopeful, and pollsters will now start to examine whether Gantz’s “speech of a lifetime” has swayed the Israeli electorate. Polls will be the name of the game in the coming days, but Gantz is also working on political moves that would lead to more team ups.
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In private conversations, Gantz is talking about bringing in a third IDF chief: Gabi Ashkenazi. Gantz is convinced Ashkenazi is not just security-oriented, but also a social leader who could bring in votes from the right. Ashkenazi has already been talked into joining, but he is only interested in doing so if he is confident a political change can be achieved. “I prefer working with those who seek the kingdom, not the kingship,” Ashkenazi said in private conversations.
“We very much want Ashkenazi. We’re waiting for him,” Ya’alon said. “The door is opened; we’re waiting for him to come.”
Ya’alon himself reached a fantastic achievement by securing three spots in the top ten of the Israel Resilience Party’s Knesset list, but he too had to put away his ego. When Ya’alon was the IDF chief of staff, Gantz was a major general under him. When Ya’alon was the defense minister, Gantz was the IDF chief. “He put his honor and ego aside and agreed to be no.2,” said one of Ya’alon’s associates. “He had always been above Benny, and now he has agreed to be no.2.”
In tandem, Gantz is looking into the possibility of joining forces with the Gesher Party, led by former Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abekasis. Levy-Abekasis, like Ya’alon, is considered “soft and moderate right.” She and Ya’alon are met with no objection from the left, and they can bring in votes from the right. To Gantz, this is the winning formula.
Still, Gantz won’t have an easy time of putting together his Knesset list. There aren’t a lot of “stars” entering politics at present. His list will be made up of people who aren’t necessarily well known. For example, the top ten in the Gantz-Ya’alon list could include: 1. Gantz. 2. Ya’alon (according to the agreement reached). 5. Yoaz Hendel (according to the agreement reached). 8. Zvi Hauser (according to the agreement reached).
In addition, two Yeruham officials, who have ties with Gantz from his days before entering politics, are expected to join him—former council head Michael Biton and educator Moshe Yehiel (Chili) Tropper. Tropper worked on Gantz’s speech behind the scenes and has been working non-stop.
The top ten will also likely include three women, with journalist Miki Haimovich being floated as a possible option.
Meanwhile, additional details have come to light about the agreement between Gantz and Ya’alon, which was reached at the beginning of the week. Gantz and Ya’alon are natural partners, with a shared military past and a similar career trajectory. But behind the scenes were two additional players, both of whom by coincidence or not served Netanyahu in the past: former Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser and former head of PR Yoaz Hendel. Officials who were involved in the talks between Gantz and Ya’alon said both Hauser and Hendel played a major part in the negotiations. Now, they are both expected to secure spots in the top ten as well.