With Israel now on the brink of elections, speculation on actual and potential candidates are in full gear, and a new poll says that former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot would be a formidable force if he chooses to run.
The Channel 13 survey conducted by Camil Fuchs and released late Wednesday found that if elections were held now, a party led by Eisenkot would be the third-largest in the country, winning 15 seats in the Knesset, behind Likud with 27 and Yamina with 21.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid-Telem was predicted to win only 14 seats, giving up about 4 seats to Eisenkot, based on previous polling. Blue and White would fall to eight seats from its current 15, both Yisrael Beytenu and UTJ would get 7, and Shas and Meretz would each pick up 6.
An Eisenkot candidacy, seeking to capture the centrist vote, would cut into the current coalition strength, but Likud, Yamina, Shas and UTJ would still have 61, enough for a slender majority in the 120-seat Knesset, according to the poll.
If Eisenkot doesn’t run, the poll said Likud would get 29, Yamina 22 and Yesh Atid-Telem 19.
Eisenkot, who retired from the IDF in January, has hinted he may enter politics, but said nothing definite. He’s denied reports of a joint run with Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai.
However, on Thursday night Ynet said that Eisenkot and another former IDF chief, Moshe Yaalon are talking about joining forces. Yaalon is currently head of the Telem party, which is aligned with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which had been part of Blue and White before Benny Gantz decided to join the Netanyahu-led coalition.
Veteran pollster Camil Fuchs confirmed that he had conducted a poll which showed that the two generals could get 16 seats running together, and potentially more than that.
After meeting with a group of political strategists, Eisenkot and Yaalon decided they would mount a joint campaign if elections are called, according to Ynet.
Ya’alon and Lapid are not expected to run on a joint slate, regardless of what Eizenkot does, Channel 13 reported.
The former IDF chief currently works for a number of think tanks.