Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister, is well-positioned to retake office. Exit surveys indicate that his right-wing alliance will gain a slim majority, helped by the excellent performance of his far-right allies. The 73-year-old is facing corruption accusations, which he vigorously denies. Many voters were frustrated with Israel’s sixth election in less than four years, yet participation was at its highest level since 2015.
The Religious Zionism list of ultra-nationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir is expected to be the third-largest party in the legislature. In a campaign brought on by defections from the ruling coalition, voters’ top worries were street security and rising prices. When moderate Yair Lapid and his coalition partner Naftali Bennett were able to put together an alliance that for the first time included an Arab party, Netanyahu’s record-breaking 12-year continuous rule came to an end in June 2021.
‘NO PEACE PARTNER’
The main opposition candidate, Yair Lapid, says he will ‘continue to fight for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic, liberal and progressive state’. His party was poised to take 54-55 seats, with his There Is a Future party coming in second-largest in parliament, polls show. The campaign was dominated by the outsized personality of Netanyahu, whose legal battles have fed the stalemate.
He ran for office touting both his management of the nation’s economy and his diplomatic successes with nations like Turkey and Lebanon. However, it wasn’t sufficient to halt the right. Ben-Gvir and another far-right politician Bezalel Smotrich, who have modified some radical anti-Arab sentiments but still advocate for the expulsion of anybody perceived to be hostile to Israel, are now Netanyahu’s primary sources of support.
The idea of a government that includes Ben-Gvir, a former member of Kach, an organisation on the terrorist watchlists of Israel and the United States, and who was previously found guilty of inciting racial hatred, runs the danger of unsettling friends like Washington. After a campaign that began against the backdrop of rising violence in the occupied West Bank, it also strengthened Palestinian scepticism that a political resolution to the issue was imminent.
The election results, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, ‘confirmed what we already know: that we have no peace partner in Israel’. Whether or whether Balad, a tiny Arab party, passes the threshold for admission to parliament might have an impact on the result since it would upset the allocation of seats and perhaps thwart Netanyahu. The Central Elections Committee claimed there was no evidence of any manipulation and denied the veracity of rumours alleging fraud.