Israel elections: Netanyahu wants to make a comeback as voters go to the polls in the fifth election in four years


Jerusalem
CNN

Israelis head to the polls for an unprecedented fifth time in four years on Tuesday, as Israel holds another national election aimed at ending the country’s ongoing political stalemate.

For the first time in 13 years, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not running as a candidate. Bibi, as he is universally known in Israel, hopes to return to power as head of a hard-right coalition, while centrist interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid hopes the mantle of acting prime minister will help him keep it in its place.

Netanyahu issued a strong warning when he voted Tuesday morning.

Asked by CNN about fears he would lead a far-right government if returned to office, Netanyahu responded with an apparent reference to the Ra’am party, which made history last year by becoming the first Arab party that has joined the Israeli government. coalition

“We don’t want a government with the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports terrorism, denies the existence of Israel and is quite hostile to the United States. That’s what we’re going to bring,” Netanyahu told CNN in English, in his col electoral law of Jerusalem.

Lapid, who hopes he and his political allies will defy poll predictions and stay in power, cast his vote in Tel Aviv on Tuesday with a message to voters: “Good morning, vote wisely. Vote for State of Israel, the future of our children and our future in general.” The name of Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, means “there is a future.”

The country was on track for its highest voter turnout in an election since 1999. Turnout was 47.5 percent by midafternoon, the Central Electoral Committee said, more than five points higher than at the same time in the last vote.

There had been a strong push to get out of the vote before Tuesday, with Netanyahu storming the country in a truck converted into a bulletproof travel stage, and Arab parties urging Arab citizens to vote to keep Netanyahu out. .

But if the final opinion polls are anything to go by, it seems unlikely that this round of voting will be any more successful in clearing the mess than the last four. These polls predict that Netanyahu’s bloc will fall one seat short of a majority in parliament.

As in the previous four elections, Netanyahu himself – and the possibility of a government led by him – is one of the defining issues, especially as his corruption trial continues. An Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) poll in August found that a quarter of respondents said the identity of the party leader they were voting for was the second most important factor in their vote.

But some senior center-right politicians, who agree with him ideologically, refuse to work with him for personal or political reasons. So to come back, Netanyahu, leader of the center-right Likud party, will likely depend on the support of far-right parties to form a coalition, and if he succeeds, he will be forced to give to their leaders. ministerial positions.

Israelis are also very concerned about the cost of living, after seeing their utility and grocery bills rise this year. In the same IDI poll, 44% said their first priority was what a party’s economic plan would do to mitigate the cost of living.

And security, always an important issue in Israeli politics, is on voters’ minds: 2022 was the worst year of conflict-related deaths for both Israelis and Palestinians since 2015.

A recent compilation of polls compiled by Haaretz shows that Netanyahu’s bloc of parties is likely to come close to, or just barely, the 61 seats needed to form a government majority, while the Lapid-led bloc falls short. between four and five seats.

According to pollsters Joshua Hantman and Simon Davies, the last week of polls saw a small bump for Netanyahu’s bloc, which showed it over the 61-seat mark in six polls and falling short in nine. The three latest polls released Friday by Israel’s three main news channels showed his bloc with 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Recognizing the need to pick up just one or two more seats, Netanyahu has been focusing his campaign in places that are Likud strongholds. Party officials have previously claimed that hundreds of thousands of likely Netanyahu voters did not vote.

Another important factor is Arab participation. Citizens who identify as Arab and have national voting rights make up about 17% of the Israeli population, according to IDI; his participation could make or break Netanyahu’s chances. One of the parties, the United Arab List, has warned that if Arab participation falls below 48%, some of the Arab parties may not pass the 3.25% vote threshold needed to win seats in parliament.

Along with rising grocery and utility bills and a near-impossible housing market, Tuesday’s vote comes against the backdrop of an increasingly tense security environment.

Earlier this year, a wave of attacks against Israelis killed 19 people, including mass attacks on civilians in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. There has also been an increase in armed assaults against Israeli troops and civilian settlers by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank this year, claiming the lives of many more Israeli soldiers and civilians. According to the Israel Defense Forces, there have been at least 180 shootings in Israel and the occupied territories this year, compared to 61 shooting attacks in 2021.

In the days leading up to election day, an Israeli man was killed and several wounded in a shooting in the West Bank near Hebron. The next day, several soldiers were injured in a car attack near the West Bank city of Jericho. The Palestinian attackers were killed in both cases.

Attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank – and sometimes against Israeli soldiers – are also on the rise, according to the human rights group B’Tselem.

Almost daily Israeli security attacks on West Bank cities have killed more than 130 Palestinians this year. While the Israeli military says most were militants or Palestinians who had violently engaged with them, including the newly formed “Lion’s Den” militia, unarmed, uninvolved civilians have also been caught.

The death of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in May while covering an Israeli military incursion into the West Bank drew worldwide attention. After several months, the Israeli military admitted that it was probably its own soldiers who shot Abu Akleh, saying it was an unintentional killing in the middle of a combat zone.

Palestinian disillusionment with the ability of their own leadership to stand up to the Israeli occupation has led to a proliferation of these new militias, and fears among experts that a third intifada, or Palestinian uprising, is on the way.

An image shows a Likud party election banner representing Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 27.

There are 40 political parties on the ballot, although only a dozen parties are expected to pass the threshold to sit in parliament. Immediately after the polls close at 10:00 p.m. local time (4:00 p.m. ET), major media networks release exit polls that give a first look at how the vote went, though the count of Official votes can vary from exit polls, often by small but crucial amounts. .

Only a dozen parties are expected to pass the minimum threshold of votes needed to sit in parliament.

Once the vote is officially counted, Israeli President Isaac Herzog will hand over the mandate to form a government to the leader he deems most likely to succeed, even if he is not the leader of the largest party.

That candidate then has a total of 42 days to try to gather enough parties to reach the magic number of 61 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s 120-seat parliament, to form a majority government. In case of suspension, the president can transfer the mandate to another candidate. If that person fails within 28 days, the mandate goes back to parliament, which has 21 days to find a candidate, one last chance before new elections are triggered. Lapid would continue as interim prime minister until a new government is formed.

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