Retired Israeli general Benny Gantz addresses members of his party in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2019.
Benny Gantz is a rookie to Israeli politics. He finished his four-year term as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces in 2015, and then waited for the required “cooling-off period” to elapse before entering politics late last year. The party he founded, called Israeli Resilience, consisted entirely of candidates who had never served in the Knesset before. But to boost his chances of unseating Netanyahu, he merged his new party with two others, to form the Blue and White party, the name chosen to reflect the colors of Israel’s flag.
The merger brought into the fold many who had previously served, not just in the Knesset, but in government as well, including Yair Lapid, who was once Finance Minister, and Moshe Ya’alon, who had been Defense Minister.
In addition, Gantz’s time as Chief of Staff has already made him a known commodity in Israel. He was often photographed during high-level meetings with political leaders, including Netanyahu, especially after leading the Israeli military through two wars in Gaza in 2012 and 2014. Because of the country’s emphasis on defense and security, it is not at all uncommon for military leaders to enter politics. Former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin both served as the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff.
If Gantz is a breath of fresh air, it is because some voters see him as untainted by Israeli politics. Even so, with his long career in public service, and centrist leanings, it would be wrong to see him as anti-establishment. Rather, his platform is far more anti-Netanyahu, which just adds to the sense that this is very much a two-horse race.