Reuters / October 28, 2022
JERUSALEM – On November 1 Israel holds an unprecedented fifth election in less than four years with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vying for a comeback.
Caught in an election cycle since 2019, the same year in which Netanyahu was indicted for corruption on charges he denies, voters hope to break the deadlock between the most dominant politician of his generation and his many rivals.
will Netanyahu win ?
Unclear. Surveys show no sweeping victory for Netanyahu or for his main rival, centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, though stagnating in the polls, is predicted to emerge as the largest in parliament. Along with allied far-right and ultra-religious factions supporting him for premier, the hawkish Netanyahu, 73, appears on the cusp of a ruling parliamentary majority.
In the last four votes, however, Netanyahu failed to lock down the rightist coalition he sought.
who else is in the race ?
Lapid, 58, is a former TV host and finance minister who entered politics on the wings of a social-economic protest movement about a decade ago. His “There is a Future” party, second in the polls, has shown some upward momentum. But his camp of allied parties spanning right to left is smaller than Netanyahu’s bloc.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz heads the centre-right “National Unity”, predicted to win far fewer seats than Netanyahu and Lapid’s parties. But that has not stopped former military chief Gantz, 63, from proclaiming himself the only candidate who can break the Netanyahu deadlock by forming new alliances and heading a broad government that will extract Israel from four years of unprecedented constitutional crisis.
who else matters ?
Itamar Ben-Gvir. An ultranationalist lawmaker who may be Netanyahu’s kingmaker and test Israel’s foreign relations if made a minister. Convicted in 2007 of racist incitement and support for a group on both the Israeli and U.S. terrorist blacklists, Ben-Gvir, 46, says he has since matured. A joint ticket of Ben-Gvir’s far-right “Jewish Power” party and other factions is predicted to come in third and his growing popularity has caused some alarm at home and abroad.
Israel’s Palestinian minority, whose vote can tip the election. About a fifth of the population and under-represented in parliament, many in the community identify with or as Palestinians. They have long lamented discrimination and treatment as second class citizens. A low turnout could remove an obstacle to Netanyahu and hand him a clear victory. A high turnout may help Lapid – whose outgoing coalition included a Palestinian party for the first time in Israel’s history.
why another election ?
Lapid and his coalition partner Naftali Bennett ended Netanyahu’s record 12-year consecutive reign in June 2021, by patching together an unlikely group of rightist, liberal and Palestinian parties which was fragile from the start. Less than one year into its rule, the coalition lost its razor-thin majority to defections. Rather than wait for the opposition to vote them out, the government dissolved parliament, triggering an election.
what is this round about ?
Netanyahu. While his indictment on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges has united rivals against him, his loyal base of supporters has been unwavering, clamouring for the comeback of a leader seen as strong and savvy with international clout. Netanyahu’s critics loathe the idea of a man they see as corrupt and destructive returning to the helm, where they fear he will bend Israel’s legal system to avoid conviction.
Netanyahu has been touting his security and economic credentials. But with dim prospects of peace talks with the Palestinians restarting any time soon, and world powers’ nuclear talks with Iran faltering – security and diplomacy have been largely swept aside. According to surveys, soaring living costs are a top concern for Israelis, but with little difference in candidates’ policy, such issues are unlikely to sway voters either way.
writing by Maayan Lubell, editing by William Maclean
Israel election polls predict Netanyahu just shy of victory
Reuters / October 28, 2022
JERUSALEM – Polls on Friday predicted Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would come within a single seat of an outright majority in his quest to return to power in next week’s election, the fifth in less than four years.
Netanyahu, on trial for corruption charges he denies, has been vying for a comeback, aided by an alliance between his Likud party and far-right party Religious Zionism – a pact that could test Israel’s foreign relations if it wins the ballot.
Two polls – one released late Thursday by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster and another published on Friday by the Maariv newspaper – both showed the Netanyahu bloc of four parties winning 60 of parliament’s 120 seats in Tuesday’s vote.
“Netanyahu arrives at election day in good shape, but the battle has not been decided,” wrote Haaretz newspaper’s political analyst Yossi Verter.
A deadlocked election could mean Israel would go to the polls again within months, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid remaining in office as caretaker.
Israel has been caught in an election cycle since 2019, the year Netanyahu, now 73, was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases which he describes as a “rigged” political witch-hunt meant to keep him out of office. read more
After four inconclusive votes, Israel’s longest-serving leader was ousted in June 2021 by a fragile coalition of liberal, rightist and Arab parties, which included Lapid’s centrists.
In Netanyahu’s bid for a record sixth term, he has allied with ultranationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose inclusion in a Netanyahu cabinet could upset Israel’s Western allies, as well as the Palestinians and Arab countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations.
The campaign has largely centred around Netanyahu with security and diplomacy issues, including conflicts with the Palestinians and Iran, taking a back seat.
Netanyahu’s rivals, left right and centre, have vowed to keep him out of office, fearing that if Netanyahu’s bloc wins, it will bend Israel’s legal system to avoid a conviction.
The polls predicted the anti-Netanyahu bloc winning 56 seats and the Arab-led Hadash-Ta’al list, which has said it will not join a coalition, getting four seats.
reporting by Henriette Chacar; Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Peter Graff