Gantz: Whatever the results, we've only just begun

Gantz’s once grand plans may now be reduced to having the possibility of continuing on as Defense Minister as an isolated moderate in a Netanyahu-led government.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaking to his supporters as they received the results of the exit polls for the Israeli elections, November 2, 2022. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaking to his supporters as they received the results of the exit polls for the Israeli elections, November 2, 2022.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party fell short of a big win on Tuesday, according to exit polls, reaching between 11-13 Knesset seats. While Gantz campaigned as the only party that can form a coalition, the low outcome will likely mean that he cannot serve as a kingmaker in the upcoming coalition talks. 

Unlike the Likud and Yesh Atid parties, which boast the two largest voter totals but are also rejected by significant portions of other smaller parties as coalition partners, Gantz had hoped he could make up for his smaller vote total by maintaining open relations with essentially all of the Jewish parties.

But with Netanyahu appearing on the way to securing his return to the prime minister’s chair, Gantz’s once grand plans may now be reduced to having the possibility of continuing on as defense minister as an isolated moderate in a Netanyahu-led government.

In a press conference on Tuesday night, Gantz stated that "whatever the true results...we have only just begun," stressing that the National Unity party would preserve statliness.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz votes for the Israeli 2022 elections November 1, 2022. (credit: ELAD MALKA) Defense Minister Benny Gantz votes for the Israeli 2022 elections November 1, 2022. (credit: ELAD MALKA)

Early Tuesday, Gantz explicitly said to the media that it did not matter who was the largest party, but rather “who has the capability” of forming a government. Throughout the day he toured Ra’anana, Petah Tikva, Rosh Ha’ayin and other towns to help get out the vote.

Much of the election season for Gantz has been a story of missed opportunities.

Much of the election season for Gantz has been a story of missed opportunities.

He surprised many with the first major political move of the campaign, joining forces with Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party.

Given that Gantz came in with eight MKs and Sa’ar came in with six MKs, the party hoped to win at least around 15 MKs.

Then Gantz signed the best new free agent of this election season, his successor as IDF chief of staff and his former top deputy, Gadi Eisenkot.

But it has seemed that a mix of right- and left-wing parties have picked off some of Gantz-Sa’ar’s voters, leaving the new duo weaker together than they were apart.

In addition, Eisenkot’s star power has not actually translated into new votes.

While respected by many, his low-key and off-message style seems to have bounced off of voters as much as Gantz’s freestyle mix of left- and right-wing views.

Rather than his diverse opinions and avoidance of locking himself into all of the policy positions of either the Left or the Right leading to attracting both right- and left-wing voters, they seem to have turned off voters on both sides due to being unsure about what he really stands for.

In the same interview, Gantz might lurch from defending his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to kissing up to settlers in certain areas, to condemning other illegal settlers’ outposts and then to defending arresting Palestinian civil-society groups he says are doubling as terrorists.

In the end, it seems Gantz’s gamble that he could call the shots between two blocs, each of which fell short of a majority on their own, fell short itself to foresee the final successful thrust forward of Netanyahu to return to power.