Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon presented the newest high-profile recruit to his growing Knesset slate on Thursday night, announcing former IDF chief of Southern Command and chief of staff candidate Yoav Galant as his number 2.
At a joint press conference in Ramat Gan, Galant apologized for a building scandal that kept him from becoming IDF chief of staff in 2011.
“Mistakes were made in my behavior, and I paid for them, as everyone knows,” he said, referring to allegations he built an unauthorized access road to his house in Amikam, and that he planted olive trees on land that wasn’t his.
“I regret it. If these things happened today, I would act differently. I put them behind me, and I am looking to the future. The feeling of responsibility and my great love for the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are what brought me to choose Kulanu.”
Kahlon, a popular former communications minister for Likud, has yet to announce his full Knesset slate, but has so far signed a number of well known Israeli figures to his freshman party, including former envoy to the US Michael Oren and Jerusalem City Council member Rachel Azaria.
Galant, who will fill the party’s “security expert” role, talked tough on terrorism, saying there could be “no compromises” against an enemy that slaughters women and children, but also emphasized the possibilities for quiet partnerships with moderate Arab states.
Galant also spoke on the importance of the US-Israel relationship, a possible swipe at the tensions that have emerged between the Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu administrations.
Kahlon said he chose a “hero of Israel” like Galant in his new party, which has focused on social and economic issues, because he believes that “without internal strength, there will be no national strength.”
Galant, who began his military career in the elite Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, is a highly regarded military strategist and was former defense minister Ehud Barak’s choice for the next IDF chief of staff in 2010.
Initially approved by the government, his appointment was subsequently canceled when questions arose over his possibly accidental appropriation of public lands for the construction of his home in the rural Galilee village of Amikam some 20 minutes’ drive from Haifa.
Galant is a relatively well-known and popular figure among Israel’s ex-generals — a recent Knesset Channel report suggested he could add as many as four seats to a party slate — and was reportedly pursued by several parties hoping to enlist him. He was rumored to be a candidate for appointment to the Likud party’s Knesset slate as well.
Kahlon is expected to announce his complete, final Knesset list of some 30 names next Thursday. Nehemia Gershuni’s average of the last six polls (Hebrew link), corrected for per-party polling errors over the past three election cycles, gives Kahlon eight out of 120 seats in the March 17 election.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.