High flying political newcomer Benny Gantz reached a deal Tuesday to head a joint electoral slate with fellow former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon in April’s Knesset elections, forming a centrist slate that will seek to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz will lead the joint list, with Ya’alon expected to take the No.2 spot.
Ya’alon’s newly formed Telem party confirmed the merger, though Gantz’s Israel Resilience party would only say that talks had progressed.
“Israel Resilience confirms that progress has been reached in contacts with the Telem party led by Bogie Ya’alon,” the party said in a statement, using Ya’alon’s nickname.
News of the merger came hours before Gantz was set to launch his campaign in Tel Aviv, with a maiden speech breaking his silence on his political stances.
An Israel Resilience party official told The Times of Israel that there would be a “special guest” at the campaign event.
Ya’alon’s party will receive the second, fifth and eight spots in the top ten of the joint list, according to a Telem party source.
Polls have shown Israel Resilience garnering 13-15 seats in April 9 elections, making it the second or third party, while Ya’alon was seen as failing to gain enough votes to enter the 120-member Knesset.
Besides Ya’alon, reports said the other two seats would go to Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel.
Hauser was cabinet secretary for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from 2009-2013, while Hendel was the premier’s spokesman for part of that time.
Ya’alon was a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and defense minister from 2013-2016, when he resigned over his replacement as defense chief by Avigdor Liberman.
Since resigning, Ya’alon has become a strident critic of Netanyahu and said he would not sit in a coalition alongside him.
Gantz has yet to publicly comment on the matter, but Channel 12 news reported Monday he would not rule out joining a Netanyahu-led government unless the premier is indicted on corruption charges.
Since launching Israel Resilience last month, Gantz has emerged as the main challenger to Netanyahu, though his party polls well behind the prime minister’s Likud, which is seen getting around 30 seats.