Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has established a new political party that will run in the next Knesset elections, Hadashot TV reported Thursday.
Gantz, 59, left the military in 2015 after a four-year stint as head of the Israel Defense Forces that saw him command the 2014 Gaza war.
Speculation over his political future has swirled this year with the expiration of his legally required “cooling off” period, under which former top security officials must wait three years after retiring before entering politics.
A Channel 10 poll published last month that asked respondents about the possibility of Gantz running at the head of his own center-left party showed the popular retired general would win 15 Knesset seats, drawing two from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, five from the centrist Yesh Atid, and four from the center-left Zionist Union.
Though the party isn’t yet legally registered, Gantz has recently secretly gathered signatures from 130 people who signed the new party’s documents, the report said. Those documents are yet to be sent to the Registrar of Political Parties, a step likely to be taken once elections are called.
Elections are currently slated for November 2019, though many analysts believe they will be held earlier.
To establish a new party in Israel, one must acquire the signatures of at least 100 Israeli citizens as a display of public support. Those supporters are considered the founders of the party, although they are not required to have an active role in its activities.
In order to be registered, the party must then send the signatures to the Registrar — along with the founders’ relevant personal details, the party name, objectives, and bylaws.
The report said that while it is likely that Gantz will run in elections under his new party, he could eventually unify the party with an existing one.
The party already has a name, according to the report, but that name hasn’t been published.
Gantz’s associates attempted to downplay the move, saying he hadn’t yet made a final decision whether to enter politics.
No recent polls have seen a Gantz-led list actually beating out first-place Likud for the largest party, suggesting Gantz’s candidacy would be felt primarily by Netanyahu’s opponents, but will likely not substantially hurt Netanyahu’s lead.
Gantz last week met Netanyahu, who has appointed himself defense minister following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation last month, for consultations on professional and defense matters. New defense ministers traditionally hold a series of consultations with their predecessors and former IDF chiefs of staff.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said the two men did not discuss politics during that meeting.
Raoul Wootliff and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.