Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi’s addition to the super-bloc formed by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz is a game changer, sources in the two parties who have seen polling data said on Thursday.
Polls have found that unlike other potential political recruits, Ashkenazi has the ability to shift mandates from the Right to the Center-Left.
For the past seven years, Ashkenazi has been the board chairman of the Rashi Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation dedicated to assisting the underprivileged in Israel, particularly children and youth. In that capacity, he met with poor people from all over the country and learned how to relate to them and earn their respect.
He also became one of the leaders of Pnima, an organization that is seen as an incubator for future Israeli leaders and exposes them to different sectors of the population in order to learn about the issues that affect them.
A source who was present in the talks between the parties on Wednesday night said that an agreement would not have been reached without the Ashkenazi pressuring both sides to reach a compromise.
“What is very nice about Gabi is that he does not put himself first, even if his abilities are no less than those of others,” said Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who is a longtime friend of Ashkenazi. “Because he put his ego aside, they did, too.”
Stern recently hosted Ashkenazi on Shabbat at his home in the National Religious community of Hoshaya in the Jezreel Valley. Stern said that when Ashkenazi attended services at the local synagogue, he saw his ability to reach out to religious Zionists on the Center-Right.
Ashkenazi was a former IDF chief of staff from 2007 to 2011, where he worked on improving military morale after the Second Lebanon War.
Avi Benayahu, who was IDF spokesman when Ashkenazi was chief of staff, said that the deal happened because Ashkenazi kept hosting Lapid and Gantz for meetings in his home.
He called on former prime minister Ehud Barak to resolve his public feud with Ashkenazi. Barak released a statement on Twitter praising Lapid and Gantz for making the deal, but noticeably leaving Ashkenazi’s name out of his tweet.
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