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Israeli challenger Benny Gantz touts military skill in tight election race

By Clyde Hughes
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Israeli challenger Benny Gantz touts military skill in tight election race
Benny Gantz, leader of the Israeli Blue and White centrist party, greets supporters Friday at a mall in Kiryat Ekron, Israel. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

April 5 (UPI) -- With just four days before national elections in Israel, candidate Benny Gantz is portraying himself as a battle-hardened military leader and peacemaker, ready to negotiate a truce to end years of conflict with Palestinians.

Israeli's will go to polls April 9 to decide if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party will stay in power, or a new coalition led by Gantz will emerge victorious. In political ads, Gantz highlights his efforts to kill terrorists and other targets while serving in the military -- with the tagline "Only the strong prevail." Other ads say, "There's no shame in striving for peace." It's an effort to attract hard-liners who support Netanyahu while courting liberals who want new leadership.

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Gantz joined the Israeli Defense Forces in 1977 as a member of its Paratrooper Brigade. He graduated from officer training school two years later and ultimately became a platoon commander in the brigade. By 2002, he'd risen to the post of commander of the IDF Northern Command. He served as the force's military attaché in the United States from 2007 to 2009 and chief of the general staff of the IDF from 2011 to 2015.

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In February, Gantz's Israeli Resilience Party joined forces with the Yesh Atid Party in a bid to challenge Netanyahu. Under the new party, Gantz would serve as prime minister until November 2021, if the group wins.

RELATED Targeted killings of Hamas leaders will resume if needed, says Israeli prime minister candidate Gantz

Recent polling shows Netanyahu's the Likud Party with an established, but small, lead. While Netanyahu has pushed a pro-settlement agenda -- to get the international community to recognize Israel's right to the Golan Heights -- Gantz has said he's willing to make territorial concessions for peace.

In a Haaretz poll this week, Likud leads Gantz's party by three seats, 30-27. Further, Netanyahu's bloc of right-wing parties seem prepared to win to 67 seats, enough to give the prime minister a governing coalition.

RELATED Fake social media accounts rally for Netanyahu ahead of election

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