Popular Netanyahu rival registers his own political party ahead of Israeli elections


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A leading rival of  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a step toward running in Israeli elections called for April 9.

Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, hasn’t declared a run for office yet, but on Thursday he registered his own political party. The Hosen LeYisrael party wil be known in English as the Israel Resilience Party.

Polls in the wake of the early election announcement show Gantz’s party coming in second to Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Gantz has not issued any kind of political platform or said what kind of political outlook a party led by him would have. But ex-military leaders like him have proven popular at the polls, and few long-time opposition politicians appear to have emerged from the pack of potential rivals.

Several existing parties courted Gantz to run with them in the upcoming election. The center-left Zionist Union — which includes Labor — reported  offered him the position of party leader.

Gantz, 59, served in the IDF as a paratrooper and became a career army official. He commanded several units, including special operations units, before serving as the head of Israel’s military from 2011 to 2015.

Israel’s Knesset voted unanimously on Wednesday to dissolve and go to early elections.

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