Israeli political scene in turmoil over upcoming national elections

Israel’s political scene is in turmoil, with just a little over two months before Israeli citizens above the age of 18 flood polling stations across the state, on the 9th of April, for the purpose of appointing Jerusalem’s future leadership. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead according to the polls published on domestic broadcasters last night; a new contender in Israel’s political arena is closely tailing the veteran Israeli leader. Former IDF chief of Staff Lieutenant General in Reserve Benny Gatz, who chairs the newly established ‘Israel Resilience’ party, is perceived for the first time in years, as the major obstacle for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s aspiration to win his fifth term in office, together with his ruling-Likud faction. In a poll published on Israel’s Channel 13, which upheld the smallest margin of error of 3.7 percent – General Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu are neck and neck when it comes to the Israeli publics opinion on who is better suited to serve as the country’s next Prime Minister, both receiving 42 percent.

That said, within Israel’s Parliamentary system, the leader of the largest party usually receives the President’s mandate to form a coalition that demands a majority within the Parliament’s 120 seats. According to all polls that were published last night, Netanyahu’s ruling Likud faction continues to lead with 30 mandates, while General Gantz’ Israel Resilience party is expected to win between 21 to 24 mandates – if elections were held today. The polls further indicated, however, that if Chairman Yair Lapid of the Centrist faction, Yesh Atid, joins forces with General Gantz, the Israel Resilience party will surpass Netanyahu’s Likud, winning 35 mandates.

Earlier this week, Lieutenant General in reserve Benny Gantz, announced his candidacy for Prime Minister – declaring it was time to replace, what he termed as, ‘the toxic government under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.’ According to him, “The people are strong, the country is wonderful, but in the land an evil spirit is blowing. The struggle between the left and the right rips us apart, the clashes between the religious and the seculars divide us, the tension between Jews and non-Jews threatens us. The social responsibility is crumbling, the politics is ugly, and the public arena is poisoned. With light eyes I look at a leadership that is busy with itself, not (busy) with you or (busy) with us. Believe me, I am proud of our country, I will never be ashamed of it. But lately, more and more people from the right, as well from the left, and I, too, are deeply embarrassed by the way our leadership is conducted. A strong government governs in order to unify (the people), as opposed to separating (the people) in order to rule.” “Exactly like you, I feel that the time has come for a leadership that unites, combines and unifies. A leadership that will act differently and lead differently.” / “That is why I stand here in front of you, four years after completing my term as the IDF’s Chief of Staff, seeking your trust so that I may lead the state of Israel.”

The former IDF Chief of Staff also touched base on the challenges Israel faces from its regional enemies and vowed to pursue a tough stance on the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip – emphasizing that “In the difficult and violent Middle East around us, no one pities the weak and only the strong prevail.” Regarding the question of peace, General Gantz declared that he would never make concessions on Jerusalem’s unity, but underscored his aspiration to pursue peace and continue a regional trend of change, by saying “The government under my leadership will pursue peace and will not miss a chance to effect a regional change.”

In response to the allegations leveled by Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in which he accused his new rival of leftist sentiments. Netanyahu underscored in his statement that “He who says that he is not right nor left is left.”