Netanyahu moves closer to power with the far right

Netanyahu is closing in on power with the far right

UPDATE DAY

The day after the legislative elections in Israel which put his party in the lead, Benjamin Netanyahu seems on the way to returning to power 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 Wednesday Yediot Aharonot, the best-selling Israeli newspaper.

As of 5:30 p.m., around 87% of the ballots had stripped, the electoral commission said. According to its partial results, the Likud (right) of Mr. Netanyahu obtains 32 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.

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 of ex-army chief Benny Gantz (12 seats), member of the outgoing coalition.

Benny Gantz

With his allies, the bloc of M Netanyahu would have 65 seats, 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. Two lists – an Israeli Arab party and the leftist formation Meretz – flirt with the eligibility threshold.

“It is still too early to speculate on the exact composition of the next coalition government as long as all votes will not be counted,” US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides said in a statement.The election 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 who seriously injured a soldier in a ramming attack at a checkpoint.

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“Coalition of extremists”

Tried for corruption and the longest-lasting head of government in the history of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu, 73, lost power in June 2021 for the benefit of a motley coalition set up by Yaïr Lapid.

“(…) 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 great victory”, launched in the night Mr. Netanyahu to his supporters in Jerusalem.

His rival, Mr. Lapid also claimed that “until the last ballot is counted, nothing is decided”.

But from the outset, a former Likud party, the current Justice Minister Gideon Saar, 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!”, launched Mr. Ben Gvir on Wednesday, reiterating his call to use force, in particular against the Palestinians.

“ Israel is about to embark on a right-wing, religious and authoritarian revolution, the aim of which is to destroy the democratic infrastructure on which the country was built,” alarmed the major left-wing daily Haaretz.

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“Depressed”

“I woke up this morning with the hope that the results had changed, but when I read that he was leading (Netanyahu, editor's note), I was completely depressed,” Lauren Vaturi Moses told AFP. 24 years old, restaurateur in Tel-Aviv.

“It is absurd that he can be elected when he is indicted and his trial is in progress.”

For these fifth legislative elections in three and a half years, the political class feared a “fatigue” of the 6.8 million registered voters. But on the contrary, the participation rate was 71.3%, the highest since 2015.

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

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The situation is particularly critical of Arab Israeli minority parties hostile to Mr Netanyahu's right-wing bloc.

As of 2020, they had garnered a record 15 seats after campaigning under one banner. But this time they presented themselves in dispersed order under three lists, Raam (Islamist), Hadash-Taal (secular) and Balad (nationalist). If some do not meet the eligibility threshold, it will increase the chances of a victory for Mr. Netanyahu.

“The results show that Netanyahu has the best chance of forming a government, with fascists by his side,” said Aïda Touma-Suleiman, deputy for Hadash-Taal. “We are deeply concerned, as this speaks to the direction this country is heading and what awaits the Palestinians.”