Ex-IDF chief Benny Gantz, a political mystery, performs brilliantly in polls

Benny Gantz is seen by some on the center-left as their hope against Netanyahu, but his own polling numbers have declined.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

A social media post has been circulating promoting an imaginary event scheduled for April 10 at which former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is to uncover his political views on the issues of the day. It’s a parody.

April 10 is the day after the election. However, it reflects the mystery surrounding the anticipated bid by Gantz to run either at the head of his own new party or join an existing list.

The secrecy of his intentions is praised as tactical by his supporters, who tout it as acting in a disciplined military manner, but ridiculed by some of his opponents as an effort to ride on the coattails of his military service without getting himself into trouble by revealing his policies.

Polls have been extremely encouraging for Lt. Gen. (res.) Gantz. The most recent one, a poll by the daily paper Israel Hayom published Wednesday, showed Gantz winning  15 seats if he ran at the head of his own party, placing him second only to the Likud, which would win 31 seats.

The 59-year old Gantz served as Israeli military chief from February 2011 to February 2015. Over the years, chiefs of staff have entered the political arena with anticipation that they brought the combination of a new political face but an old hand at dealing with the most crucial security issues which face the country.

More recently, however, their aura has diminished both because not all of these generals-turned-politicians turn out to be successful in their new world and that socio-economic issues have trumped security matters for most Israeli voters when determining who they want to lead the country.

This hasn’t stopped other former military chiefs from planning to enter this election campaign. Moshe Yaalon has announced that he is running at the helm of a new party and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has been vocal in his call to form a united front to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though he is denying that he wishes to head it.

Though his political views are not known to the public, Gantz is seen by some as the key to a center-left bloc capable of taking down Netanyahu. In fact, public opinion polls show that his entry into the race would hurt the leading opposition faction in the outgoing Knesset, Zionist Union. This would explain why Gantz reportedly was offered by Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay to take over the top spot. He is said to have declined.

Gantz is seen as having a certain flair which combines his military experience with a boyish face and charm. The Ynet news service posted a video to its website showing Gantz bringing out coffee to its camerawoman who was staked outside his house. It’s that combination which supporters hope can lead to his success in the April ballot, countering the image of Netanyahu as Mr. Security while offering a softer tone with his demeanor.

UPDATE: Gantz announced the formation of the Israel Resilience party on Thursday afternoon.