Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with former IDF chief of staff and likely future political rival Benny Gantz on Wednesday for “consultations on professional and defense matters,” his office said.
For the first time in his long political career, the four-term prime minister, who has also served as foreign minister twice, finance minister, health minister, and a string of other posts, appointed himself Israel’s defense minister earlier this month following the resignation of Avigdor Liberman.
New defense ministers traditionally hold a series of consultations with their predecessors and former IDF chiefs of staff.
Netanyahu has already met with former defense ministers Amir Peretz and Moshe Arens. He is slated to meet with Shaul Mofaz, who was also an IDF chief of staff, as well as former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in the coming days, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The meeting with Gantz may have been more tense than those with the others, as Gantz is believed to be exploring a political career, and polls suggest his candidacy could have a dramatic effect on the political landscape of the Israeli center-left.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said the two men did not discuss politics at Wednesday’s meeting.
A Channel 10 poll published last week that asked respondents about the possibility of Gantz running at the head of his own party showed the popular retired general would win 15 Knesset seats, drawing two from Netanyahu’s Likud, five from the centrist Yesh Atid, and four from the center-left Zionist Union.
Gantz has said in closed forums that he would prefer to run at the head of his own party than join an established party.
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.