Political parties wooing popular former IDF chief Eisenkot

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot is being pursued by political parties hoping to boost their popularity in the next election.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s political parties are looking to bolster their popularity by adding former IDF commander Gadi Eisenkot, who retired from his post last year and is perceived as being popular with the public, Israel Hayom reported Thursday,

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of the Blue and White Party said he would welcome Eisenkot and even support him as head of the party instead of Defense Minister Benny Gantz if that was good for the country.

“If it is correct for Gadi to stand at the head of the camp, then Gadi will be head,” Ashkenazi said in an interview Thursday with Israeli Army Radio. “The kingdom before the monarchy.”

With Blue and White’s popularity down in recent polls, along with a drop in approval ratings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, politicians are looking for new blood to up their rankings and Eisenkot is seen as a valuable potential asset.

Eisenkot met last weekend with opposition Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Maariv reported.

“On the agenda: security issues and of course, politics. As far as is known, Eisenkot has had quite a few meetings of this kind recently,” reporter Ben Caspit tweeted.

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Gantz, Ashkenazi and Eisenkot all served as top generals in the IDF. Ashkenazi retired from the military in 2011, and was replaced by his underling Gantz, who retired in 2015 when Eisenkot, his deputy, took over and completed his term as head of the military in January 2019, retiring from the IDF after 41 years of service.

Normally, Eisenkot would have had to wait to become eligible to enter politics until January 2022 due to a mandated three year cooling-off period for ex-IDF chiefs of staff, but Israel Hayom reported in May that because three elections have been held he is able to run.

Eisenkot is also popular with the American military. In 2016 he received a top American award, Commander of the Legion of Merit, from his American counterpart, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, for “exceptionally meritorious service as chief of the General Staff of the IDF” and his “contribution to the strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel [that] will have a lasting effect on both countries.”

“It will be a great contribution to the Israeli public if Gadi decides to join, if he will decide,” said Ashkenazi, who, along with Gantz, was also head of the IDF. “I can only bless it.”