The election polls in Israel have closed and it appears (from Exit Polling) that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party is IN TROUBLE.
As of 3:00 PM eastern US time, (Israel is 7 hours ahead of the US east coast) TV stations in Israel are showing exit polling data that has challenger Benny Ghantz of the Blue & White Party leading Netanyahu and Likud!
Gantz is a 59-year-old retired general who from 2011 to 2015 served as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff — the supreme commander of the entire Israeli military and its highest-ranked officer.
Gantz is new to Israeli politics, and has been described as calm, cool, and soft-spoken. He was reportedly considering the role of Israel’s defense minister before polls showed that he was an extremely popular choice for prime minister prior to him even entering the political arena.
In December 2018, Gantz created a new party called Israel Resilience, whose stated platformwas to pursue “the continued development and strengthening of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and focus on issues like education, agriculture, and internal security. Then in February, Gantz joined forces with the Yesh Atid party to form a centrist alliance that branded itself the Blue and White party, after the colors of the Israeli flag (basically the equivalent of an American political party calling itself the “Red, White, and Blue Party.”)
The former military officer has painted himself as a political outsider who would be a breath of fresh air. He’s talked about “uniting” Israel and refocusing on democracy. He’s taken aim at Netanyahu by saying he’ll fight corruption and impose term limits. But he doesn’t differ much from Netanyahu in other areas, like his policy on the Palestinians. He’s also allied with some extremely hawkish politicians in the Knesset.
In short, some say, he’s trying to be all things to all people — but mainly offer an alternative to the embattled prime minister.
Netanyahu, for his part, has had a lot of success partly by portraying himself as tough on security issues, like his policy toward Iran, and his forceful response to rocket attacks from Gaza. In past elections, that has served him well. But he is finally facing off against someone he can’t so easily paint as weak on security — though he’s certainly tried.