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Israel’s Benny Gantz, a defense minister with expiration date

New Defense Minister Benny Gantz has a year and a half in front of him to prepare for the role of prime minister.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz wears a protective face mask on his way to the swearing-in ceremony of a new unity government in the Knesset (Israel's parliament) in Jerusalem May 17, 2020. Alex Kolomoisky/Pool via REUTERS - RC2DQG90APEQ

Israel has never had a defense minister whose expiry date, stamped on his forehead, was unrelated to the democratic process or elections. Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz took over as defense minister May 18. He will step down Nov. 17, 2021, to become prime minister under his rotation agreement with the incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu. This abbreviated tenure will force Gantz to move quickly, adopt decisive measures and reshape events before his deadline expires. In other words, this challenging timetable will demand of him personality traits that he has yet to display.

As the 20th chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gantz was known for his rather easygoing and calm demeanor, for being a team player reluctant to engage in conflicts and unnecessary adventures and for trying to avoid involvement in major upheavals. However, in order to stabilize his position and build up his stature to assume the premiership 18 months from now, Gantz will have to change. Gantz will have to display leadership of the kind he appears to lack: Tough, confrontational, determined. Gantz must learn to be Netanyahu, minus the criminal charges and political views. He will not get a second chance to leave a first impression.

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