Ex-IDF chief Eisenkot, Tel Aviv mayor Huldai said planning joint Knesset run

Two public figures, who have recently become increasingly critical of the government, deny report they are forming new centrist party

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya's annual conference on September 10, 2020. (Screen capture: IDC)
Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya's annual conference on September 10, 2020. (Screen capture: IDC)

Former military chief Gadi Eisenkot and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai are reported to be planning a joint political bid in a new centrist party.

The two have yet to decide who would take the first slot on a possible party slate and who the second, Channel 12 reported Monday. The two were said to be looking for other candidates to join them.

The report did not cite any sources.

Since his legally mandated cooling-off period following high-level civil service ended, many in Israel have wondered if Eisenkot will run for political office, as nearly all of his predecessors have.

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

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.

On Tuesday Huldai, who has been the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa since 1998, also denied the report.

“All the news yesterday about Eisenkot is nonsense. When there is news I will let you know,” he told reporters.

Last month 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.

“The public must be told the truth: There’s currently a pandemic, there probably won’t be a vaccine until the summer of 2021, and therefore we need a strategy; we need mutual responsibility, we need discipline, we need leadership, we need precision, and we need to manage risks,” he said.

He also appeared to denounce Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing campaign of criticism against the police and state prosecution. “You can levy criticism, but there’s no place for excoriation or a desire to destroy the legal and police systems,” Eisenkot said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot deliver statements to the press at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2018 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In May, Huldai said he would launch a Knesset bid if another election were to be held soon.

“What is happening in Israel terrifies me. I can’t stand by,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.

Huldai has in recent weeks become an even more outspoken critic of the government, and was lightly injured at an anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday. The mayor had visited the protest at Habima Square, where dozens of people were arrested during clashes between demonstrators and police.

A day later he said police were being deployed “not to enforce the coronavirus law, but to break the demonstrations.”

He also publicly congratulated former deputy-turned-rival Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir for his resignation as tourism minister. Zamir had cited the passage of controversial legislation to restrict protests during the coronavirus lockdown and asserted that Netanyahu was more concerned by his legal woes than the fight against COVID-19.

Reiterating that he will enter national politics when there are elections, Huldai told Channel 12: “If my being the Number 2 to someone will contribute to ousting this government, I’ll be there.”

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