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Eisenkot said to deny joint election run with Ya’alon: ‘Nothing has been agreed’

Comments come after internal polling reportedly showed new centrist party led by former generals would have best chance at siphoning voters off right-wing bloc

IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot attends a Knesset committee meeting on August 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot attends a Knesset committee meeting on August 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot has reportedly denied claims that he has decided to run together with Telem chair Moshe Ya’alon in a new centrist political party if fresh elections are finalized in the coming weeks.

Ya’alon, a fellow former chief of staff, said last week following reports of the union that “if [Eisenkot] enters politics, he will do so in my party, and I will lead.”

Eisenkot, however, was reported Sunday by the Ynet news site to have told close associates that nothing has been determined yet.

“I have inquiries from many parties and I meet with and talk to everyone,” he was quoted as saying. “Nothing has been agreed yet. The decision on whether to join political life and with whom will be only be made when the election date is set.”

Ynet reported last week that Ya’alon and Eisenkot have seen polling showing an alliance between them could win at least 16 Knesset seats, drawing votes from parties on the right and diminishing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chance of leading another government.

Outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (left) with IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot in his Tel Aviv office on Sunday, May 22, 2016 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Eisenkot has hinted he may enter politics since leaving the military last January, but hasn’t said whether he’ll throw his hat in the ring as the coalition teeters on the edge of collapse.

“The main consideration underlying the decision is whether I can have an influence and bring about significant change,” Eisenkot reportedly said.

In September, Eisenkot criticized the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, declaring the effort a failure and saying the cabinet had lost the public’s trust. He also appeared to denounce Netanyahu’s ongoing criticism of the police and state prosecution following the premier’s indictment on corruption charges.

According to a television report last month, Eisenkot was planning a joint political bid with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, but they haven’t decided who will head the slate. Eisenkot, who was IDF chief of staff from 2015 to 2019 and who currently works for a number of think tanks, denied the report of the joint run, as did Huldai.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai attends the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Last week’s report of a joint run by Eisenkot and Ya’alon came a day after the coalition’s Blue and White party helped pass a bill in a preliminary reading to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections, heralding the likely end of the power-sharing deal Netanyahu signed with Defense Minister Benny Gantz some six months ago.

The move set the stage for the fourth round of national elections in two years, though the legislation must still move through committee and pass more votes, amid speculation that the sides may attempt to work out a deal before then.

Blue and White leaders Yair Lapid (R) and Moshe Ya’alon at a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon, who previously served as defense minister under Netanyahu, left the Likud party in 2016. Ahead of the April 2019 elections he formed Telem, which joined with Gantz’s Israel Resilience and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid to create the Blue and White party, which ran in all three of the 2019-2020 elections. After the March 2020 election, when Gantz joined the government, Ya’alon opted to remain in the opposition as part of a joint Yesh Atid-Telem faction.

Ya’alon and Lapid are not expected to run on a joint slate, regardless of Eisenkot’s potential entry to the political fray, Channel 13 reported Thursday.

Likud and Blue and White have feuded almost since the inception of their power-sharing coalition in May, but ties between them hit a low in recent weeks as a December 23 budget deadline nears. Gantz has accused Netanyahu of refusing to pass the 2020 and 2021 state budgets in one shot — as per the coalition agreement — which would prevent Gantz from becoming prime minister in November 2021, also as per the coalition agreement.

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