Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz may run for the next Knesset under the banner of a new party that was formed three months ago by Yeruham Mayor Michael Biton and Haredi Women’s College founder Adina Bar-Shalom, sources in the party told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
The party will be called Achi Israeli (my Israeli brother). The sources confirmed a report in Yediot Aharonot about contacts with Gantz but denied that there was already an agreement for him to be the party’s top candidate in the 2019 election.
“Bar-Shalom and Biton started forming the party two years ago along with people who come from very different places and want to bring a new discourse to Israeli politics,” a source in the party said. “The real story is all of the people involved getting connected.”
The source said Gantz had a similar vision to the party’s founders and was a good fit. But Gantz has multiple political options and has not made a final decision where to begin his political career.
Biton said his connection with Gantz began on the basis of his connection to Yeruham through the educational program that the former IDF chief initiated there.
“It made me have great respect for him,” Biton told Yediot. “I definitely see him as a fitting political leader, and I certainly see him as a partner to what we have been building for nearly two years. We have ideas and a vision that Israeli society requires, and I am open to partnering with him politically at any stage. We have spoken about a vision for new leadership for Israel but not concrete talks [regarding] places on a Knesset list.”
Biton is considered a rising star in Israeli politics due to his success in the development town he has run since 2010. He ran unsuccessfully for head of Keren Kayemet L’Israel in 2015.
Bar-Shalom, who is the daughter of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has been sought after by multiple political parties for several years. She is an odd fit with Gantz, who has been working on a framework for drafting all haredim (ultra-Orthodox) into service.
Other founders of the party include former Labor MK Orna Angel, former Israel Broadcasting Authority director-general Moti Shklar and former IDF senior officers Gideon Shefer, Ruth Yaron and Asaf Lapidot. Also among the party’s leadership will be two current Bayit Yehudi officials – El Al pilot Yossi Shvu and Inbar Giti, the director-general of Pnima, a leadership training program led by former education minister Shai Piron in which Gantz has been involved.
“What [we] all have in common is that we want to reach compromises within Israeli society and not victories,” a source in the party said. “We are also all new to politics and have leadership experience.”
The leadership team has been meeting weekly to plan the party’s future. Achi Israeli should not be confused with the former Ahi party that was founded by former National Religious Party chairman Effi Eitam and which later merged with Likud.
“We haven’t gone public yet,” Biton told the Post
. “Give us another couple months.”
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