Elections in Israel: Netanyahu moves closer to power with the far right

Elections in Israel: Netanyahu moves closer to power with extreme right

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JERUSALEM | In the aftermath of the legislative elections that placed his party in the lead, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be getting closer to victory on Wednesday thanks to the far right, even if the final results could change the situation. 

“Netanyahu seeks decisive victory, Lapid hopes for equality, Ben Gvir celebrates victory”, headlines Yediot Aharonot, the best-selling newspaper in the Israeli press.

At 10:45 a.m. (08:45 GMT), approximately % of the ballots had been counted, the electoral commission said. According to its partial results, the Likud (right) of Mr. Netanyahu obtains 31 seats, in front of the centrist formation Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) of the outgoing Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid which collects 24 seats, out of the 120 of the Parliament.

Yair Lapid

Netanyahu's far-right allies Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir came third with 14 seats, double the seats they had previously.

Party follows center-right party of ex-army chief Benny Gantz, a member of the outgoing coalition and winning 12 seats.

With his allies, Mr. Netanyahu's bloc would have 65 seats, or four more than the majority. But these scores could change when the official results are announced, in particular depending on the seats won by the smaller parties.

“We are on hot coals, it could only take a few thousand votes” to change the situation, analyzes Yael Shomer, professor at the University of Tel Aviv, while two lists – an Arab party and the left formation Meretz– flirting with the eligibility threshold.

The poll took place against a backdrop of renewed violence in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel. On Wednesday, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian man who seriously injured a soldier in a ramming attack at a checkpoint.

“Right-wing revolution”

< p>Tried for corruption and the most long-lasting of the heads of government in the history of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu, 73, lost power in June 2021 to the benefit of a motley coalition set up by Yaïr Lapid.

“I have experience, I have done a few elections, we have to wait for the final results but our path, that of Likud, has proven to be the right one, we are close to a big victory,” he said. launched in the night Mr. Netanyahu to his supporters gathered in Jerusalem.

His rival Mr. Lapid also affirmed that “as long as the last ballot is not counted, nothing is decided

But already, a former Likud party, the current Minister of Justice Gideon Saar, has warned of the risk of seeing Israel heading towards a “coalition of extremists” led by Mr. Netanyahu and his allies.

“The time has come for a full-fledged right-wing government. The time has come to be the masters (…) in our country!”, said Wednesday Mr. Ben Gvir, who also reiterated his call to use force, especially against Palestinians.

< p>“Israel is about to begin a right-wing, religious and authoritarian revolution, the goal of which is to destroy the democratic infrastructure on which the country was built,” the major left-wing daily Haaretz said on Wednesday. “This could be a dark day in Israel's history.”

Reaching the 3.25% threshold

For these fifth legislative elections in the space of three and a half years, the political class feared a “fatigue” of the 6.8 million registered voters. The opposite happened, with a turnout of 71.3%, the highest since 2015, according to the electoral commission.

In the Israeli proportional system, an electoral list must obtain at least 3.25% of the votes to enter Parliament, thus having a minimum of four seats.

The situation is particularly critical for the parties of the important Israeli Arab minority, descendant of the Palestinians who remained on their lands when Israel was created in 1948.

In 2020, the Arab parties, hostile to Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing bloc, had collected a record 15 seats after a campaign under a single banner.

But this time they presented themselves in dispersed order under three lists, Raam (moderate Islamist), Hadash-Taal (secular) and Balad (nationalist), and if some do not meet the eligibility threshold, this would increase Mr. Netanyahu's chances of returning to office.

“The results show that Netanyahu has the best chance of forming a government, with fascists by his side,” said Aïda Touma-Suleiman, MP for Hadash-Taal. “And that is of great concern to us…because it speaks to where this country is heading and what awaits Palestinians living in this country.”