Israeli ex-general joins 2019 election race

A former Israeli armed forces chief who, opinion polls show, poses the toughest challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid for reelection next year formally established a political party on Thursday.

Details about Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party, leaked to local media after it was registered, gave little indication of its ideological tilt.

Along with preserving Israel as “a Jewish and democratic country”, the party pledged unspecified changes to priorities in national security and the economy.

Polling has predicted an easy win for Netanyahu in the April 9 election, with his rightist Likud party taking around 30 of parliament’s 120 seats and on course to form a coalition government similar to the current cabinet.

The surveys, published after Netanyahu announced on Monday (December 24) an election some seven months before one was due by law, gave second place to a then-hypothetical Gantz party. The polls forecast it would take around 15 seats.

Gantz, 59, became Israel’s top general in 2011 after stints as commander of forces on the combustible northern frontier with Syria and Lebanon and as military attache in Washington. During his four-year term he oversaw two wars in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

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