Who is Benny Gantz, the first rival of Benyamin Netanyahu?

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Unknown in politics a year ago, he could become the successor of Benyamin Netanyahu. Benny Gantz has obtained, according to almost definitive estimates, 32 seats in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, after the parliamentary elections on Tuesday, 17 September. It's as much as his rival Likud, the current prime minister. On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, the race of the two competitors to form a majority was opened.

Read our analysis of the results: In Israel, Benyamin Netanyahu misses his bet

While "Bibi" must be able to count on the support of religious parties and the radical right to form a majority of seats in parliament, Gantz could welcome in his majority the left parties and, more hypothetically, the members of the "united list" of the Arab parties.

Distribution of seats in the Knesset, Israel after the elections of 17 September.
Distribution of seats in the Knesset, Israel after the elections of 17 September. The World Computer Graphics

Wednesday morning, the former general said he wanted to form a "Broad unity government, expressing the will of the people". "We have started negotiations and I will speak with everyone," he added. In a column published Monday in major Israeli dailies, he said he wanted to lead the country in "The interest of all Israelis" and "Not in the interest of pressure groups".

Flashy career in the IDF

The 60-year-old man went into politics in December with a new centrist party, Kahol Lavan in Hebrew, Blue-white in French, the colors of the Israeli flag. In a few months, he managed to federate part of the anti-Likud electorate to reach, in the elections of last April, to match the list led by Benyamin Netanyahu. The latter could not find, in the middle of a Knesset split between eleven parliamentary groups, a majority coalition in parliament, new elections were convened for September 17.

Since then, General Gantz, more seasoned, returned to the fight, with a goal: to chase Benyamin Netanyahu, in power continuously for ten years. The fight, Benny Gantz knows: he was, from 2011 to 2015, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, crowning a career in the light of IDF, the central institution of the Jewish state.

Born in 1959 in Kfar Ahim, southern Israel, Benyamin "Benny" Gantz is the son of a survivor of the Holocaust. He enters the army at the age of 18, becomes a paratrooper and climbs the ladder at full speed. Battalion commander at 28, brigadier general at 39, general at 42, he is nicknamed "the prince" in the ranks, according to a portrait of him New York Times last January. During the last war in Gaza, he is in charge of the Israeli army. In a campaign video last spring, he boasted about the number of 'Terrorists' Palestinians killed during this operation in 2014, without mentioning civilian casualties.

Benny Gantz in 2014, when he was the highest ranking IDF commander, the Israeli army.
Benny Gantz in 2014, when he was the highest ranking IDF commander, the Israeli army. Nir Elias / REUTERS

A security policy close to Netanyahu

From his life under the flag, Benny Gantz keeps a safe approach to politics, not far from that of Benyamin Netanyahu. If he had spoken in 2012, to relativize the Iranian threat by calling his leaders "Very rational people", his vision of an Israel threatened from all sides (Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip) agrees with that of Likud.

"I do not foresee any real change in terms of security policy" in case of victory of Bleu-blanc, explained Agence France-Presse Jonathan Freeman, political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Benny Gantz has also made an alliance with two other former chiefs of staff: Moshe Yaalon, former Minister of Defense of Netanyahu, and Gaby Ashkenazi, in office during the second term of "Bibi" in 2009.

Analysis: Benyamin Netanyahu, a prime minister surrounded by his former allies

The leader of Kahol Lavan says it wants to maintain Israeli military control over most of the occupied West Bank. In its manifesto, the Blue White party advocates a separation between Israelis and Palestinians, without specifically naming the solution to "Two states", which provides for the creation of a coexisting Palestinian state with Israel.

"Zero tolerance" against corruption

In domestic politics, Benny Gantz has a more liberal face than "Bibi", which he accuses to jeopardize the institutions of the country – the current prime minister must appear in court on October 3 for corruption cases. A father of four, this great football fan studied history and political science in his country before studying at the National Defense University in the United States. Head up, gaze right, Benny Gantz advocates the " zero tolerance " against corruption and appears as a rallyer.

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Now instruct President Reuven Rivlin in the coming days to choose who, Gantz or Netanyahu, will be best placed to form a government.

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