A new Benjamin: How will Gantz face Israel's enemies? – Analysis

What could Israel expect under the leadership of three military men?

Moshe 'Bogie' Ayalon (L), Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi anounce the Blue and White Party (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Moshe 'Bogie' Ayalon (L), Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi anounce the Blue and White Party
For the first time in over a decade, Israel may be led by another Benjamin, a political newcomer who might have to lead the Jewish state during a time of turmoil in the messy Middle East.
This new Benjamin, Benny Gantz, served as IDF Chief of Staff under the old Benjamin, Bibi Netanyahu, and is no stranger to commanding troops under fire.
Netanyahu on Monday returned the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin after he failed – for the second time in six months. Rivlin's office has said that he will give the mandate to Blue and White chairman Gantz, who will then have 28 days to try to form a government and lead the country.
But commanding troops is far different from leading a country, and he would need to compromise with other parties in order to form a coalition government which would unite the complex country under his leadership.
Even within his own party, he’s made political compromises. Despite being Chief of Staff, and having run with two other former chiefs of staffs Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon – he is considered dovish.
Ya’alon, who held the post of Chief of Staff between 2002-2005 and also served as Defense Minister under Netanyahu between 2013-2016 is considered more center-right. Meanwhile, Ashkenazi who held the top post between 2007-2011 is considered more center-left.
All three of them oversaw military conflicts between Israel and her enemies. Between them, they have decades of military and command experience, important for a country which is surrounded by turmoil and terror groups whose missile arsenals are aimed at Israel’s home front.
So what could Israel expect under the leadership of three military men?
With security always at the forefront, Gantz met last week with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, “in light of recent security challenges and regional developments,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
Six months ago, when Israel went to the polls for the first time, Gaza was front and center. It’s not much different this time, except that the threats posed by Iran and Hezbollah cannot be ignored – especially following the American withdrawal from Syria, which opens up a significant amount of territory to Israel’s enemies.
In April, tanks and thousands of soldiers were deployed along the border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after long-range rocket fire towards the center of the country. In May, the focus was on the northern border after, according to foreign reports, Israel expanded air strikes to both Lebanon and Iraq against Hezbollah and Iranian targets.
But will his dovish political leanings make him any less powerful as a prime minister – when facing enemies who have vowed the destruction of his country?
Netanyahu has kept the status quo in Israel’s South, which has been pounded by thousands of rockets in the past year alone, responding with targeted air strikes against Hamas targets and militants. While he’s been able to prevent another war with terror groups in Gaza, residents in Israel’s South have been contending with daily violence along the border fence.
Gantz, who was chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, has ripped into Netanyahu’s handling of the Strip, saying that “other than advancing the building of the barrier along the Gaza border, nothing has been done.”
In the North, Gantz has called Hezbollah “the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world” and has stated that he stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Netanyahu against Iran, about which, as “IDF former Chief of Staff, I saw first-hand, precise information regarding what is really happening in Iran.”
During a rare flareup of violence along the Lebanese border two weeks before the second general election, Gantz suspended his campaign, writing on Twitter that “There is no opposition and no coalition in an operation against anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel or its sovereignty.”
So, while Israel’s newest Benjamin is a breath of fresh air for a country that has been ruled by the current Benjamin for so long, he will likely take a harsh stance against Israel’s enemies – and Israel’s security will not be eroded.