Former Israel military chief launches party ahead of polls

Former Israel military chief launches party ahead of polls

JERUSALEM - AFP
Former Israel military chief launches party ahead of polls

Respected Israeli former military chief of staff Benny Gantz on Thursday launched a political party ahead of snap April elections, with polls suggesting his new group could claim a number of seats.

The newly founded Israel Resilience party aims at "strengthening the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel", according to official registration documents seen by AFP.

Polls have shown that if Gantz -- who headed the military from 2011 to 2015 -- were to run with a party then the entity could claim 13 to 20 seats of the 120 up for grabs in Israel’s Knesset.

Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to dissolve parliament and hold snap elections on April 9 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government agreed on early polls.

The premier’s coalition was left with a one-seat majority after defence minister Avigdor Lieberman stepped down in November over a controversial ceasefire deal in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Polls say Netanyahu looks set to extend his long reign at the top of Israeli politics, but a slew of corruption investigations have cast a cloud over his future.

Israeli media said that the creation of the Israel Resilience party means that Gantz, 59, and his allies will contest the April vote.

Despite his high profile, the former military chief remains a wildcard, with his own political views and his party’s platform largely unknown.

Another former military chief Moshe Yaalon, who served as Netanyahu’s defence minister from 2013 to 2016, unveiled his own party on Wednesday.

A former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Yaalon has become a critic and rival of his former boss.

Some media outlets speculated that Yaalon and Gantz could join forces for the election on a centre-right ticket.

Israel, Politics, Elections