Bis repetita. For a political novice, Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival to the anticipated Israeli legislatures on September 17, can boast of having already waged two tough legislative election campaigns in less than six months.
In the previous poll, held in April, his list Blue-white (Kahol Lavan), consisting of several centrist formations, had obtained as many seats (35) as the list of Likud (right) led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Better placed to form a coalition, the current Prime Minister had finally failed to constitute a majority and had been forced to organize early elections.
A consensual and respected figure from the ranks of the army, Benny Gantz is offered a second chance to dislodge the irremovable Prime Minister. The former chief of staff (2011-2015) is again neck and neck with his opponent, according to the latest polls published by the Israeli media.
"These elections are not a second chance that will be followed by another chance," Benny Gantz warned at a recent rally in the northern city of Haifa, "and whoever does not vote jeopardizes Israeli democracy. . "
A balancing act
To do better than equal play with the Likud, the former general led a campaign with patriotic and unifying accents, keeping in mind that his list had won in April a lot of votes from the traditional left. Liberal on the issues of society (civil marriage, LGBT), Benny Gantz must both be careful not to offend part of the left that sees him as the only able to block Benjamin Netanyahu, while attracting voters right disappointed Likud, without alienating the center.
A balancing act that consists in highlighting his morality, the ethics of the mode of governance that he intends to apply in order to differentiate himself at all costs from Benjamin Netanyahu. As when he proposes, in case of victory, that he and his running mate and centrist leader Yaïr Lapid take turns as Prime Minister, while the leader of Likud has been in power continuously since 2009.
Campaign Posters from the Blue White List (Gil Cohen-Magen, AFP)
Benny Gantz is especially forced to hit hard on the criminal pots of his rival, weakened by business and to be heard in October by the Attorney General. The latter must decide on his charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust in three cases.
"Benny Gantz is playing the card of secularism and trying to propose an alternative to the Netanyahu coalition, advocating another more liberal and democratic view against populism," said Gideon Rahat, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, interviewed by France 24.
Appearing as a credible and measured recourse, he does not forget the issues dear to the right like security and seeks, as in the previous campaign, to be as uncompromising as his rival on this issue, also insisting on the Iranian threat.
"Vote for me: I'm meaner than Netanyahu, but I'm clean," the left-wing daily Haaretz joked earlier this year, paraphrasing Benny Gantz.
Security, angle of attack against Netanyahu
With two alumni, Moshe Yaalon and Gabi Ashkenazi, two former chiefs of staff like him, Benny Gantz disputes in each of his speeches the image cultivated by his opponent to guarantee the stability and security of Israel . He focuses his attacks on what he believes is Benjamin Netanyahu's Achilles' heel: the security situation in the Gaza Strip.
"A Prime Minister who is under investigation is not able to deal with Hamas", Benny Gantz repeats since the resumption in mid-August of attempted infiltration into Israel and rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal strip controlled by the armed Islamist movement. Accusing the government of having lost its deterrent capacity and showing weakness against Hamas, it promises, if the destiny of the country is entrusted to him, to launch a military campaign to annihilate Hamas definitively.
"In summary, the Gantz camp is trying to convince voters that Netanyahu is strong in speech, but is still unable to solve the problem posed by Hamas in Gaza," said Sami Sockol, France 24 correspondent in Jerusalem.
And when Benjamin Netanyahu raises the auction by promising, September 10, to unilaterally annex the Jordan Valley if it is renewed in power, Benny Gantz can not attack on the merits, but only on the electoral timing of the 'ad. For his part, he also promised that Israel will retain responsibility for security east of the Jordan, including in the occupied West Bank. And as his rival, he intends to "strengthen" the existing settlement blocs in the Palestinian territory.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the peace process is at a standstill and overshadowed by social issues, its blue-and-white list stands out, however, displaying the desire to revive negotiations with the Palestinians.
"But any decision with strategic implications will be subject to the people to make the ultimate decision," insists Benny Gantz.
What leeway to form a coalition ?
It remains to know his ability to expand his opportunities for alliances to form a coalition government in case of victory. With room for maneuver reduced, Benny Gantz opened the door to an alliance with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist party and secular Israel Beitenou, even if he wanted to disturb some of his electorate. A figure of the extreme right in crusade against ultra-religious who, according to the latest polls, could delight ten seats of deputies (against the five obtained in April). Such a result would offer the role of kingmaker to those whose refusal to join the government coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu has provoked early elections.
Benny Gantz said an ideal coalition would include his party, that of Avigdor Lieberman and Likud (without Benjamin Netanyahu, because he excludes to rule with a man sued), and "maybe" the Labor Party, whose his father had been a local manager. However, he did not mention the Arab parties, the third force of the current Parliament. However, Benjamin Netanyahu's camp accuses him almost daily of seeking to make a deal with certain Arab parties, in order to dissuade right-wing voters from leaning in his favor. "The only government that Gantz can set up is a government of leftists and Arabs, he has no other government because the Likud does not want to sit down with him," he said in early September. right party in a statement.
"The Arab lists have never participated in any government coalition since the creation of the State of Israel, and it is difficult to see Benny Gantz offer to return to his own and offer them ministerial posts, it is unrealistic, explains Elisabeth Marteu, associate researcher at the International Institute of Strategic Studies and specialist in Israel, interviewed by France 24. He could ultimately negotiate their support for the Knesset to form a parliamentary majority, but given Benny's comments Gantz on some Arab parties, it seems difficult. " But perhaps this is the only key that Benny Gantz will have to achieve his ends.