After months of being wooed by almost every political party in Israel, former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot made his choice: he is joining Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar in a new party to be named the National Camp (the Hebrew name uses the word Mamlachti which does not have a precise equivalent in English and means, vaguely, being related to the kingdom, the state, and the nation – DI). Former Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana (Yamina), who chose not to join Ayelet Shaked at the Zionist Spirit, is also joining forces with Gantz, Sa’ar, and now Eisenkot.
The new National Camp issued a statement Sunday morning, saying: “The union will be the basis for the establishment of a broad and stable national government that will bring an end to the ongoing political crisis.”
About a month ago, the Kantar Israel institute released a survey saying that Gantz and Sa’ar could rise to 17 mandates with Eisenkot on their slate. Recently, their party has been nose-diving to 10 mandates, while their arch-enemy at the center-left, Yair Lapid, has been pushing 23 mandates.
One of Eisenkot’s conditions before joining the new party was a commitment to hold primaries. It should be noted that while the older parties, Likud, Labor, Religious Zionism, and Meretz hold primaries, Gantz, Sa’ar, Liberman, and Lapid have been the unchallenged deciders in their parties. Eisenkot wanted primaries even before the elections to the 25th Knesset on November 1 but settled for a promise to hold them ahead of the 26th Knesset elections.
According to Israeli media reports Sunday, Gantz will be in first place on the new party’s list, Sa’ar second, and Eisenkot third. Kahana will be in 9th place, using one of Eisenkot’s 4 slots in the party’s top 18 list.
Meretz chairman wannabe Yair Golan, who served as Eiskot’s deputy but was not awarded his job for a variety of reasons, on Sunday morning told Army radio that Eisenkot’s views are closer to Meretz than they are to Gideon Sa’ar. Eizenkot like Gantz is a strong supporter of a two-state solution.
Eisenkot served as chief of staff from 2015 to 2018, and his term saw a wave of Arab murderous attacks on Jews. He gained notoriety for condemning an IDF medic named Elor Azaria who killed a terrorist that had been subdued and was lying on the ground in Hebron. The event would have been swept under the rug if not for a B’Tzelem activist who captured it on video. Eisenkot was also criticized by religious Zionists for his move to launch combat units of men and women who serve together. He approved of a feminist position paper that was issued by the IDF suggesting the division of men and women is stereotypic. Once the document had been exposed, the IDF denied any connection to it.
Moshe Gafni, of the Haredi UTJ party, called the merger between Gantz and Matan Kahana a “serious mistake.” The Haredi parties blame Kahana (and Liberman) for the policies of the Bennett government that targeted Haredim. They had been looking at Gantz as an alternative in case Netanyahu couldn’t form a government, but Kahana’s presence in Gantz’s party will make that much less possible.
Like Yair Golan, Ayelet Shaked gave Kahana her own bear hug and wished him well in the leftwing party and promised that she would block the establishment of a Palestinian state that Gantz’s party wants to advance.