(photo credit: REUTERS + MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
With an election possibly set to be initiated in November, two former IDF chiefs of staff are contemplating a new career, this time on the political battlefield.
Benny Gantz served as the 20th chief of staff, from February 2011 until February 2015, and presided over Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza in 2014.
In the years since he left the military, he has focused on social issues and may be the most popular candidate for the Israeli center-left voter.
In November 2015, a poll showed that if Gantz were to run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he would win by a margin of 44% to 32%.
Almost three years later, a poll published in Yediot Aharonot last month found that if the former general ran at the head of the Zionist Union, it would get 24 Knesset seats, behind only Netanyahu’s Likud Party, which would get 30 seats.
The poll was conducted by Prof. Mina Tzemach for Yediot and came shortly after rumors first surfaced that Gantz was exploring the option of joining the Zionist Union as its candidate for prime minister.
Speaking at a conference at Sapir Academic College in Sderot in March, Gantz said he was “very seriously considering” entering politics and running for parliament in the next election.
Another former general who could be a potential game changer for any party he decides to join is Gabi Ashkenazi, who held the IDF’s top position from 2007 to 2011.
Like Gantz, Ashkenazi has focused on social issues since he left the military, founding last April “Pnima” or “Inward,” a social movement aimed at healing rifts in Israel society.
Speaking at the launch of the movement in April 2017, Ashkenazi called for “an end to the divisions, an end to the incitement, an end to the baseless hatred.... My goal is that we get to know one another.”
For the past six years he’s also been chairman of the board of the Rashi Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation dedicated to assisting the underprivileged in Israel, particularly children and youth.
Unlike Gantz, Ashkenazi is not the most popular option for many Israelis and has not yet given any indication that he will run in coming elections. But if he does put his name on a party list, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
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