Eisenkot election boycott leaves parties hanging

Gantz wants to give Justice portfolio to Tropper

Lieutenant-General (res.) Gadi Eisenkot speaking at the Israel Democracy Institute (photo credit: ODED ANTMAN)
Lieutenant-General (res.) Gadi Eisenkot speaking at the Israel Democracy Institute
(photo credit: ODED ANTMAN)
Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot announced to party leaders on Wednesday that he will not be running in the March 23 election, creating a void of security figures that they will urgently try to fill.
Eisenkot told Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid and Avigdor Liberman that he would not be entering politics “at this time,” due in part to it being too close to the end of his army service and a cooling off period that would prevent him from becoming a cabinet minister.
The many new parties and candidates running also persuaded him to sit this race out, he told them.
Eisenkot was considered the only game changer outside of politics who could make a difference for a party. He was being wooed by several parties, including New Hope, Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, Blue and White, Yamina, Likud, the Israelis Party of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and MK Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem.
Without Eisenkot, the stocks of former OC Intelligence Amos Yadlin, former IDF brigadier-general Gal Hirsch and other former military men have risen.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF chief of staff, announced on Wednesday afternoon that he is leaving Blue and White and would also sit out the March 23 election.
Ashkenazi will not be quitting his post as foreign minister or leaving the Knesset. He told Blue and White leader Benny Gantz of his decision and wished him well in the election.
Although he was critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said he did not regret joining the government.
“Blue and White presented an alternative to Netanyahu, and we decided to have influence from inside the government out of national responsibility,” Ashkenazi said.
Ashkenazi took credit for the Abraham Accords, saying that he changed the discourse away from annexation and opened up opportunities for peace accords.
Gantz said he respected Ashkenazi’s decision. He credited him with restoring respect to the Foreign Ministry.
“He helped significantly to stop the annexation plans and advance normalization in the region,” Gantz said. “I am sure he will still contribute much to the Israeli public.”
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and his longtime confidante, Blue and White MK Einav Kabla, who are joining Huldai’s Israelis Party, will quit the Knesset on Sunday.
They will be replaced by the next two candidates on the combined Blue and White-Yesh Atid list, Moshe Kinley Tur-Paz and Vladimir Beliak of Yesh Atid, unless Blue and White ministers who quit the Knesset under the Norwegian Law decide to return.
Tur-Paz was until recently the director-general of the Jerusalem Education Authority. He was born to British parents who had made aliyah in the 1950s, while they were emissaries in Philadelphia. He spent part of his childhood in England when they were emissaries again. His father was a senior official at the Jewish Agency in Israel.
Nissenkorn resigned from his post on Wednesday morning, under pressure from Gantz.
Nissenkorn wrote a letter to Gantz thanking him for supporting his fight against what he called dangerous attempts by Netanyahu to harm Israeli democracy and the rule of law. He wrote that whoever runs the Justice Ministry must protect the courts and the state prosecution from the constant attacks by “one man,” clearly referring to Netanyahu and his supporters.
They have lambasted the legal establishment since moves to indict him started in February 2019 and throughout his ongoing trial. Nissenkorn said he was proud to have stood as a wall to defend the legal establishment while in office since May.
A source close to Gantz said he wanted to appoint his confidant, Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper, to the post, but it was unclear if it is technically possible, since Tropper is not an MK. Meanwhile, Gantz will hold the position. According to the coalition deal, it is Gantz, not Netanyahu, who can fire and replace Blue and White ministers.
The Israelis (Huldai’s new party) would win eight seats if the March 23 election would be held now, according to a new poll taken by Panels Research for 103 FM Radio, which is part of The Jerusalem Post Group.
The poll was the first taken since Huldai announced that he is entering national politics and had drafted Nissenkorn from Blue and White to be his second-in-command. It found that the new party took four seats away from New Hope, two from Yesh Atid-Telem and two from Yamina, since the last survey taken by the same pollster that was published in Friday’s Jerusalem Post.
The survey predicted 26 seats for the Likud, 17 for New Hope, 13 for Yamina, 12 each for Yesh Atid and the Joint List, eight each for the Israelis, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu, seven for United Torah Judaism and five for Meretz.
Interestingly, the poll predicted four seats for Blue and White, the same as on Friday, so Huldai did not harm the party at all.
There were also three polls aired Wednesday night on the three nightly news broadcasts. The Israelis Party did not hit double digits in any of them.
Meanwhile, former Finance Ministry accountant-general Yaron Zelekha announced on Wednesday that he will run in the election at the helm of a new party called the New Economic Party.
In a press conference symbolically held at a Tel Aviv club closed due to the coronavirus, Zelekha said his goal is to be finance minister.
Zelekha blasted the economic policies of not only Netanyahu, but also of Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, and the corruption of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his finance minister Avraham Hirchson.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.