Who’s afraid of Benny Gantz?

The Gantz factor must be accounted for in making predictions about the next election.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot (left) shakes hands with Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv in 2015  (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot (left) shakes hands with Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv in 2015
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
For weeks, the talk of the Knesset’s spring break was former Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecasis.
She is clean, socioeconomically minded, modest, comes from a good family and represents a breath of fresh air. That was enough for her to pass her former party chief, Avigdor Liberman, in the polls and then jump to seven and eight seats in surveys predicting she could hold the balance of power in the next Knesset and demand the Finance Ministry.
But besides a name for her party, candidates and an ideology, Levy-Abecasis also lacks security credentials. And until Israel becomes Switzerland, security credentials are a political necessity.
Enter Benny Gantz. The former IDF chief of staff is just as clean and modest. His mother, Malka, survived Bergen-Belsen. And he has been learning socioeconomic issues as a member of the secretive leadership incubator Pnima.
But unlike Levy-Abecasis, Gantz has a rich security background. And as long as he has that, any party would see him as an asset.
“We would be happy to see him over here,” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post at his faction meeting in the Knesset.
Minutes earlier, Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay gave the exact same quote at his faction meeting, noting that Gantz shared Labor’s values. Gantz’s father, Nahum, was the secretary of the party’s sector of moshavim agricultural communities.
Over the weekend, Maariv’s Ben Caspit reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was pushing her husband to bring Gantz to the Likud. In Meretz and Shas, the question of whether they were also wooing Gantz was seen as a joke. But he remains what is politely called “unburdened by ideology,” or at least very good at keeping his views to himself.
It is no wonder a Panels Research poll broadcast Sunday found he would win more than twice as many seats as Gabbay if he headed the Zionist Union and perhaps even pose a serious threat to Netanyahu. As long as Gantz continues to keep his opinions quiet, there is no reason for anyone to oppose him.
But Gantz cannot stay silent forever. And the moment his views are revealed, there are liable to be people who disagree with him, and he, like other generals before him, will begin to lose his luster.
When the positive polls for Levy-Abecasis were released, there were those who said they would persuade Netanyahu’s coalition partners not to topple him because her nascent party would steal their votes. Now that Gantz is the darling of the pollsters, and his cooling-off period prevents him from running until February, it is possible that fear of Gantz will have the opposite effect.
The date of the next election will still be decided by the current security situation and the progress in Netanyahu’s criminal investigations. But the Gantz factor must also be considered.