Ex-Negev regional council head denies joining Gantz’s political party
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Ex-Negev regional council head denies joining Gantz’s political party

Alon Schuster says ‘too early’ to discuss enlisting in party led by ex-IDF chief-turned-politician who has remained mum on his positions

Alon Shuster, former head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council (GPO - Mark Nayman)
Alon Shuster, former head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council (GPO - Mark Nayman)

Former Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council head Alon Schuster on Wednesday denied reports that he was the first candidate to join Benny Gantz’s newly formed Israel Resilience party.

Schuster told The Times of Israel he had not signed on to the party, and declined to comment on the reports carried in Hebrew-language media earlier on Wednesday.

“I didn’t know that I announced anything,” he told the Ynet news site in a subsequent interview. “It’s too early to be talking about these things.”

Schuster and Gantz have been friends for over 40 years, and served together in the IDF. The reports claimed that Schuster, the former head of the Gaza-area Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, was set to leave his current position as mayor of the southern kibbutz of Hatzerim to pursue a political career at the national level.

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

Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, formally launched his political party late last month ahead of the upcoming April 9 elections, but has been largely mum on his positions.

He has yet to announce who will run for elections on his list, which polls show garnering 14-16 seats, better than any other party save Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which is expected to win around 30 spots in the Knesset.

However, a Channel 10 survey released this week found that Gantz is increasingly closing the gap with Netanyahu. The poll published Tuesday found that when presented with a choice between the two, 41 percent of Israelis picked Netanyahu while 38% picked Gantz; 21% were undecided.

Meanwhile, embattled Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay on Wednesday said that Gantz rejected his offer to form a center-left bloc in a bid to oust Netanyahu in the upcoming elections.

In a speech at a Kibbutz Movement conference at the Dead Sea, Gabbay said that he tried to convince Gantz to run on his list, but “as is his right, he chose to start in a different way,” Hadashot TV news reported.

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay (L) announces the shock break up of the Zionist Union as his erstwhile partner, head of opposition Tzipi Livni, looks on, during a party faction meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gabbay last week broke up the Zionist Union, Labor’s alliance with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, humiliating Livni by announcing the move on live television in her presence without having informed her in advance.

Rather than boost Labor in opinion polls, the split has reduced the opposition party’s expected showing to only seven or eight seats in the April 9 elections.

Gantz has not yet set out his political platform, but is widely believed to intend to stake out a centrist position. Channel 10 news reported that he may seek to partner with former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, another former chief of staff who has set up his own new party, but that such an alliance was being delayed by a series of demands that Ya’alon was making of Gantz.

According to the TV station, Gantz is preparing to formally launch his election campaign shortly. Other reports have said Gantz will set out his positions in speech when he formally launches his election campaign on Thursday.

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