Benny Gantz, a former Israeli armed forces chief who according to recent polls is the runner-up to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, formally established a political party on Thursday to join the 2019 election race.

Details about Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party were leaked to local media after it was registered. The party seeks to preserve Israel as “a Jewish and democratic country”, however, it is yet to announce details about its priorities in national security and the economy.

The polls, published Monday after Netanyahu’s announcement of early elections which are to be held on April 9, showed that his Likud party would take around 30 of parliament’s 120 seats and was on course to form a conservative coalition government similar to the current cabinet. However, the same polls, cited by Reuters, gave second place to a then-hypothetical Gantz party, predicting it to take 15 seats in total.

“It’s too early to tell, but he definitely strengthens the centre-left camp,” said Mina Tzemach, a leading Israeli pollster, cited by the Miami Herald. “He projects security and integrity. And the fact that he looks good doesn’t hurt either.”

Gantz, 59, became Israel’s top general in 2011 after stints as commander of forces on the tense northern frontier with Syria and Lebanon and as military attache in Washington. He had served a four-year term which oversaw two wars in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu is running for a fifth term while being investigated for three corruption allegations, for which the police have recommended an indictment. The Israeli Prime minister has denied any wrongdoing and Israel’s attorney-general has yet to decide whether to charge Netanyahu.

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