Netanyahu’s future unclear as Israeli elections threaten to block | Benjamin Netanyahu News

The prospects for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain power in Israel appear uncertain after exit polls in the country’s fourth parliamentary election in two years projected yet another stalemate.

With final results not expected until later in the week, Wednesday’s forecast indicated that even Netanyahu’s handling of a world-famous COVID-19 vaccination deployment – a showcase of his campaign – failed. perhaps not enough to propel the leader to the right. wing Likud to victory.

The first screenings of Israel’s three major television stations after Tuesday’s vote gave Netanyahu an advantage, based on the potential backing of ultra-nationalist rival Naftali Bennett, formerly defense minister.

But the amended forecast pointed to a stalemate even with eventual backing from Bennett, with the 120 seats in parliament being split evenly among Netanyahu’s true opponents and supporters.

The Israeli opposition has performed better than expected and support for Likud has plummeted, exit polls said, after criticism of Netanyahu highlighted accusations of corruption against the country’s longest-serving leader. countries and accused him of mismanaging the pandemic.

On social media, Netanyahu claimed a “huge victory” over the group of left, center and right parties trying to topple him – even though TV screenings have not confirmed it.

He did not repeat this claim in an election night speech at a Likud rally, saying only that the planned number of seats in parliament, around 30, was “a great achievement” and that he hoped to form a “Stable right-wing government”. .

Harry Fawcett, from Al Jazeera, who reports from West Jerusalem, said that while Likud seemed to have once again retained its status as the largest party in Israel’s parliament, the path to a majority result was far from clear. .

“The first exit polls showed a slim majority in terms of a potential coalition for Netanyahu with just 61 out of 120 seats in parliament, which means he would have that majority. But those exit polls are changing, ”Fawcett said.

“One of them still gives him that slight thin lead. Another draws a 60-60 link between the pro and anti-Netanyahu blocs. And the third, now gives Netanyahu a slight drag of 59-61. “

The huge victory of the Israeli right

Unless coalition-building talks break the deadlock, voters could be heading for a fifth election.

Bennett, whose far-right Yamina party was slated to win seven seats, shares Netanyahu’s radical nationalist ideology, including annexing parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and appears to be more likely to eventually join Netanyahu.

Whether he can tip the scales will depend on the end results. The 48-year-old has said he will wait until he enters before announcing policy measures.

During the campaign, Bennett said he would not serve under the most likely leader of an anti-Netanyahu bloc, Yair Lapid, 57, leader of the Yesh Atid party.

According to exit polls, Yesh Atid took second place with 17-18 parliamentary seats.

Al Jazeera’s Fawcett said that while exit polls did not indicate a clear winner, they showed a “huge victory for the Israeli right.”

“There is still the potential that Netanyahu may be able to ward off defectors from clearly anti-Netanyahu right-wing parties. So there are more options on the table for him.

The issue of forming a cohesive coalition “is much more difficult for the anti-Netanyahu bloc,” Fawcett said, “given their very wide ideological and other differences, it is for right-wing Netanyahu.”

A Netanyahu government with Bennett and a handful of other ultra-nationalists on board would result in one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu and Bennett’s partners would include a pair of ultra-Orthodox religious parties and the “Zionist clerics,” a party whose leaders are openly racist and homophobic. One of its leaders, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is a follower of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was labeled a terrorist group by the United States for its anti-Arab racism before Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Another fragile coalition?

Stephen Zunes, professor of political science at the University of San Francisco, based in the United States, said that “the general drift to the right in Israel is very strong and very worrying.”

“It’s quite astonishing to see an Israel – which for its first 30 years of existence was overwhelmingly controlled by a center-left coalition which drew inspiration from the social democratic parties of Western Europe – is now so firmly in the hands of a right wing and a corrupt politician like Netanyahu, ”said Zunes, of Santa Cruz, in the US state of California.

But despite Netanyahu leading once again, “it’s still a long way from an absolute majority of 61 seats,” Zunes said.

“It will be yet another fragile coalition government and we could see people returning to the polls again.”

The dominant politician of his generation, Netanyahu, 71, has been in power continuously since 2009. But the Israeli electorate is deeply polarized, with his supporters hailing him as “King Bibi” and opponents waving signs calling him ” Minister of Crime ”.

During the campaign, Netanyahu has repeatedly drawn attention to Israel’s highly successful coronavirus vaccination campaign. He acted aggressively to get enough vaccines for Israel’s 9.3 million people, and within three months the country had inoculated about 80% of its adult population.

This allowed the government to open restaurants, shops and the airport just in time for election day.

He also tried to portray himself as a global statesman, highlighting the four diplomatic deals he made with Arab countries last year. These agreements were negotiated by his close ally Donald Trump, then President of the United States.

Peace process sidelined

Opponents of Netanyahu claim the prime minister has messed up many other aspects of the pandemic, particularly by allowing his ultra-Orthodox allies to ignore lockdown rules that have ensured a high infection rate for much of the year.

More than 6,000 Israelis have died from COVID-19 and the economy continues to struggle with double-digit unemployment figures.

They also point to Netanyahu’s corruption trial, claiming that a person charged with serious crimes is unfit to rule the country. Netanyahu has been accused of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals he calls a witch-hunt by a hostile legal system and media.

Personality politics got so out of the way that there was almost no mention of Palestinians during the campaign after years of frozen peace talks.

The day before the vote, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the election an “internal” issue for the Israelis, but condemned the conditions Palestinians endure under Israeli occupation.

“All of their election campaigns have taken place at the expense of our land and our people, and parties are fighting over more land, more settlements,” he said.

In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas, said the Israeli elections appeared to be taking place between “the right and the far right.”

Analysts, meanwhile, said Palestinian citizens of Israel will be staying at home in greater numbers this time around because of their disappointment at the disintegration of the umbrella Common List party.

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