Ex-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz may be the most popular candidate on the Israeli center-left — and he hasn’t even announced an intention to run.
A poll published in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday found that Gantz would draw some 24 Knesset seats if he ran at the head of the Zionist Union faction, second only to the ruling Likud party at 30.
If he founded a new party, it would crush the Zionist Union, the poll found. Gantz’s party would take 14 seats, in third place after Likud’s 29 and Yesh Atid’s 15, while an Avi Gabbay-led Zionist Union would come in fourth with 10.
The findings suggest support for Gantz crosses party lines, as the possibility of a new Gantz-led party appears to siphon about four seats from Likud, five from Zionist Union and three from Yesh Atid.
The poll finds Likud in the lead in any scenario, at 29 to 33 seats, but gives the opposition Zionist Union a far better chance of seriously challenging the right-wing mainstay with Gantz at its helm.
If Gantz chooses to not to go into politics, the poll gives Likud 33 seats, Yesh Atid 18, Zionist Union 15, the Joint (Arab) List 12, Jewish Home 7, United Torah Judaism 7, Kulanu 6, Meretz 6, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Shas 5 and a party led by former Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Orly Levi-Abekasis the last 5.
The latest findings also confirm similar polls over the last month that put a Zionist Union headed by Gantz at some 25 seats, against a slightly weaker Likud at around the 29-30 seat mark.
The poll was conducted by Prof. Mina Tzemach for Yedioth. It comes just as Gantz’s mandatory “cooling-off period” — the time required by law between when senior IDF officers retire and when they can launch political careers — comes to an end. Gantz left the military in 2015.
It also comes a month after reports first surfaced in the Hebrew-language press about Gantz exploring the option of joining the Zionist Union as its candidate for prime minister.