Former IDF chief Benny Gantz
Ben-Dror Yemini

It's time for Benny Gantz to show his hand

Op-ed: No one has any idea about the former IDF chief's political positions, but it's clear those who would give him 16 Knesset seats are eager to hear what he has to say, and sitting on the fence can work only up to a certain point.

A new poll released this week in Israel makes one thing very clear: domestic politics are more fluid than they appear. For if elections were held today, a hitherto unknown party led by former IDF chief Benny Gantz would receive 16 seats in the Knesset, making it the second largest entity in parliament.



But we still have no idea where Gantz stands. To this very day, he has yet to express any position. Is he in favor of the two-state solution? How about concessions to the Palestinians? What is his policy vis-à-vis Gaza? Is he for or against settlement expansion? And what about a unilateral separation from the Palestinians while maintaining security control, as suggested by many of his friends from the "Commanders for Israel's Security" movement? What is his socioeconomic policy? At present, we have no idea of any of it.


Is he even running? He's tight-lipped, but the signs (such as rumors of high-level meetings, vague comments abroad) point to definitely maybe.


Former IDF chief Benny Gantz (Photo: Anat Mosberg)
Former IDF chief Benny Gantz (Photo: Anat Mosberg)


The centrists are the future, as evidenced by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid's upswing in the polls as he moves closer to the middle. Indeed both the left and the right have centrists looking for a political home. The left has seen a split in recent years, between the center and those of a more ideological bent, and — more importantly — one-third of Likud voters don't support the positions of most of the party's MKs as they drift steadily to the right.


This one-third is the key to political change in Israel. The Zionist left has entirely failed to reach them and this is one of main reasons that voters are abandoning them for the Likud. It's not for love of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu — it's a refuge, to put it mildly, from the defenders of those who campaign against Israel.


Netanyahu has clear successes in the international arena under his belt, but is losing American Jews. On the Palestinian front—both the southern and eastern—the diplomatic freeze is not improving Israel's situation on the world stage. The supporters of settlement expansion are showing that Netanyahu is susceptible to pressure, which belies his hardman image. This malleability won't win him much sympathy from this significant part of Likud voters, and the expected spike in the cost of living is only adding fuel to the fires of disappointment in the prime minister.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


These circumstances create an opportunity for change. And while we haven't heard even a word from Gantz, it's clear those who would give him 16 seats in the Knesset are eager to hear what he has to say. They are waiting for winds of change. They want out-of-the-box thinking and the man whose towering stoic form led Israel's army through war and peace might deliver the goods. When Gantz finally does open his mouth, it's safe to assume some of his supporters in the polls will abandon him, but if he conducts himself properly, others will flock to his side.


The political center will decide the 2019 elections; it may get a lot of flak, but it's the most important spot on the political map.


There's a normal distribution of opinions in Israel—a little on the margins, a lot more on the right and the left, and even more in the center bloc, which has voters from both sides. After all, in the gap between Likud and Labor is a public with willing to compromise as long as it leads to peace. There is a majority that is sick of surrendering to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox. There is a majority that seeks fair budget allocations across society. There is a majority that wants equal allocation of the burden of national service. But thanks to our coalition system, we get a dominant minority instead of true democracy. And we are fed up.


Does Gantz have a way to escape the trap of the radical minority winning and the sane majority losing? Does he bring new ideas that differ from those of Yair Lapid or Zionist Union's Avi Gabbay?


Does the list of those supporting him herald a change? The public doesn't have the faintest clue. The support Gantz receives in the polls is a form of credit, and he has been given the chance to present his plan.


Sitting on the fence can work only up to a certain point, and we have reached that point. Now it is the time to present something organized. Sixteen seats represents a lot of Israelis and they are entitled to seek answers.


פרסום ראשון: 12.18.18, 23:28
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