Gantz said looking to enlist labor union chief for Knesset slate

Former IDF chief is reportedly seeking to diversify a list of candidates believed to be heavily populated with ex-generals

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz seen with members of the Druze community and activists outside his home in Rosh Ha'ayin, during a protest against the nation-state law, January 14, 2019. (Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz seen with members of the Druze community and activists outside his home in Rosh Ha'ayin, during a protest against the nation-state law, January 14, 2019. (Flash90)

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, now head of the Israel Resilience party and running in the April 9 elections, is looking to add Histadrut labor federation chief Avi Nissenkorn to his Knesset slate and preparing for at least one merger with another political party, Channel 13 news reported Thursday.

Gantz’s search for candidates for his new party has drawn widespread attention, even when reports are based on little more than rumor, because Israel Resilience has consistently polled in second or third place behind front-runner Likud and close competitor Yesh Atid in recent weeks, with numbers suggesting that Gantz’s top 15 or so candidates are almost certain to enter parliament.

Israel Resilience is also said to be in talks with the Telem party, founded and headed by another former IDF chief, Moshe Ya’alon, for a merger of the parties in what pundits are labeling a “chiefs of staff party.”

Similar rumors suggest that retired major general Yom Tov Samia, who heads the little-known Beyahad party founded to run in the upcoming elections, is also looking to join forces with the security-minded slate.

The reported talks with labor unionist Nissenkorn — which had not been confirmed by him as of Thursday evening — could thus be part of an effort on Gantz’s part to diversify a slate that is reportedly already bursting at the seams with ex-generals.

Histadrut leader Avi Nissenkorn attends a hearing at the National Labor Court in Jerusalem on December 5, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The news comes ahead of the mid-February deadline for registering the final Knesset slates and party mergers that will be on the ballot on April 9, and just days before Gantz is expected to break months of near-silence in a much-touted speech at the formal launch of his campaign in Tel Aviv on January 29.

A poster put out on social networks by Gantz’s party this week announcing the event says simply, “Gantz speaks.” A spokesman for the party later confirmed that the laconic ex-general would “obviously” be delivering the keynote speech.

Gantz is considered one of the only possible threats to a Benjamin Netanyahu victory, despite his party still polling well behind the prime minister’s Likud. But much of the country has been trying to figure out where Gantz stands on issues from peace and security to housing and welfare.

In one of the first indications of his political leanings, Gantz on Sunday released a series of campaign videos positioning himself firmly in the center with a tough on terror message, but also a willingness to try and make peace.

Campaign poster for Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party promising he will speak at a launch event on January 29, 2019. (Israel Resilience)

One video, part of a series titled, “Only the strong survive,” took credit for the IDF’s destruction of 6,231 Hamas targets in the 2014 Gaza war under Gantz’s command, boasting that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.”

Despite the militaristic nature of the videos, Gantz also released a separate video saying Israel needed to seriously pursue peace with the Palestinians.

“It’s not shameful to be striving for peace,” he said in the video, which also featured images of then-prime minister Menachem Begin holding peace talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the 1970s, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting PLO leader Yasser Arafat in the 1990s.

“In another 25 years, do we still want to be sending our children off to fight? No,” Gantz said. “What will we tell them? That we didn’t do anything? That we didn’t try?

“I can’t accept that there will be an entire generation here without hope,” he said. “It can be different here.”

Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz seen with members of the Druze community and activists outside his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, during a protest against the nation-state law, January 14, 2019. (Flash90)

Gantz formally launched his Israel Resilience party late last month, but has been largely mum on his positions. Last week, he unveiled his party’s slogan, “Israel before all,” as well as distancing himself from the Likud party by vowing to “fix” the controversial nation-state law to help the Druze community.

He told Druze activists outside his home in Rosh Ha’ayin that Israel said that amending the law would “express the connection [between the Druze community and the State of Israel], a deep and unbreakable connection not only in battle, but also in life. We have a blood pact, but more than that, we have a life alliance.”

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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