Ex-chief of staff Benny Gantz eyes political career

Former general indicates he’s talking to lots of parties, but says he has no immediate plan to enter Knesset

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz speaks at the annual World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem on November 2, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz speaks at the annual World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem on November 2, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz on Tuesday did not rule out entering politics, but said he would not be doing so soon.

During a speech at a conference of municipal corporations in the southern resort city of Eilat, he said, “It’s not relevant at this moment, but Israeli society is one to which I willingly committed my life, and to which I would certainly commit my activity.

“What the implication is, what the situation will be, and if and when it might happen, only time will tell,” he added, according to Army Radio.

Indicating that he was talking with several parties, he said, “There’s no question here of [Avi] Gabbay [head of Zionist Union], [Yair] Lapid [leader of Yesh Atid], or Likud or Yisrael Beytenu, or Jewish Home or Meretz, okay? Everyone talks with everyone else, it’s natural.”

Gantz, 58, who was chief of staff from February 2011 until February 2015, commanded the 2014 war in Gaza.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visits near the border with the Gaza Strip, on July 26, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

He and the army drew considerable criticism in a state comptroller report published in February 2017, which said it had not adequately prepared to face the threat of Hamas attack tunnels.

Since leaving the army, Gantz has focused on social issues.

In April, together with another former army chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, and a former Yesh Atid party education minister, Rabbi Shai Piron, Gantz launched a a social movement aimed at healing rifts in Israel society and encouraging dialogue between Israelis from various communities.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and former education minister Shai Piron at a press conference for the new non-political movement “Pnima”, in Lod, on April 3, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

In June, he told a University of Haifa conference about the institution’s new study on the country’s “national resilience,” stating that Israel’s ability to withstand attacks could be weakened not by outside forces, but by the increasing infighting between the groups that make up Israeli society.

“We have, of course, a challenge with international delegitimization, but we have a more important challenge in internal differences,” he said.

In November 2015, a poll showed that Gantz would defeat Benjamin Netanyahu by a wide 44% to 32% margin if a race for the prime minister were to be held on the day people were surveyed.

Ganz’s mandatory cooling-off period before he is allowed to run for office expires next month.

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