While Israeli pollsters persist in touting former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz as a formidable newcomer who could, in combination with others, unseat Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a senior Likud MK was dismissive of the supposed threat on Thursday.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a Netanyahu ally, said: “We’re not worried about Benny Gantz. He’s not even on Netanyahu’s radar and according to the polls [Likud] gets double the seats he does.”
Gantz formally registered his new party, Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel Resilience Party), on Thursday. Speculation continued about who might populate the party’s electoral list.
Yisrael Hayom reported earlier in the day that Gantz wanted former deputy prime minister Dan Meridor and had contacted Yerucham Mayor Michael Biton to sign up with his party. But there was no comment from the former general on the reports.
But if Gantz is not considered a serious threat, a lesser-known political figure by the name of Orly Levy-Abekasis, is said to be on Netanyahu’s radar.
Levy-Abekasis, a former Yisrael Beytenu MK who set out on her own and registered her new party called Gesher on Wednesday, has polled at no more than half of Gantz’s 16 seats (running on his own, more if he teams up with Yair Lapid or Moshe Yaalon), but the ideological ambiguity of her candidacy could take votes away from Likud.
The prime minister reportedly said her views lie somewhere between the center-left Labor and the hard-left Meretz party.
“Orly Levy is part of the left-wing bloc,” he was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying. “Whoever thinks she is part of the right-wing bloc is mistaken.” And he predicted that during the campaign that she will pledge to not join a government led by him, posing “a danger to the right-wing camp.”
The Likud party denied the report, stating that Netanyahu has not yet made any comments about Levy-Abekasis either publicly or privately.
She told Hadashot news on Tuesday and noted she is neither extremely right nor extremely left.
“The layout is of people from the right and from the left, from the cities and the periphery, from places that feel that the government did not count them and want to reach places where decisions are made in the country,” she said in describing the constituency she’s aiming for. Gesher is Hebrew for “Bridge,” and she hopes to present a candidacy that can bridge the gaps between those groups.
Like Gantz, she has yet to announce who would run with her on the party list.