Israeli elections: Netanyahu looks to return as voters head to the polls in fifth elections in four years


Jerusalem
CNN

Israelis go to the polls For the unprecedented fifth time in four years on Tuesday, as Israel Hold another national election aimed at ending the country’s ongoing political impasse.

For the first time in 13 years, ex Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Not occupying the position of the incumbent. 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 acting premiership will help keep him in place.

Netanyahu issued a stark warning as he voted on Tuesday morning.

When asked by CNN about his fears he would lead a far-right government if he returned to office, Netanyahu responded with a clear reference to the Ra’am party, which made history last year by becoming the first ever Arab party to join an Israeli government coalition. .

We do not want a government with the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports terrorism, denies the existence of Israel, and is very hostile to the United States. That’s what we will achieve,” Netanyahu told CNN in English, at his polling station in Jerusalem.

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

The country was on track to achieve its highest voter turnout in elections since 1999. The Central Election Commission said the turnout was 47.5% by mid-afternoon, more than five points higher than it had been at the same time in the previous vote.

There were strong efforts to get out of the vote before Tuesday, with Netanyahu storming the country in a truck converted into a bulletproof travel platform, and Arab parties urging Arab citizens to vote to remove Netanyahu.

But if the final polls are on target, this round of voting is unlikely to be more successful in overcoming the impasse than the last four. These polls indicate that Netanyahu’s bloc will lose one seat from the majority in parliament.

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As in the previous four elections, Netanyahu himself – and the possibility of forming a headed government – is one of the specific issues, especially as his corruption trial continues. a A poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) in August A quarter of respondents found that the identity of the leader of the party 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 make a comeback, Netanyahu, the leader of the center-right Likud party, is likely to rely on the support of far-right parties to form a coalition — and if successful, he may have to give their leaders ministerial posts.

Israelis are also seriously concerned about the cost of living, having seen utility and groceries bills soar this year. In the same IDI survey, 44% said their number one priority is what the party’s economic plan would do to lower the cost of living.

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

a The latest collection of polls Haaretz shows that the bloc of parties led by Netanyahu is likely to either be shy – or only reach – the 61 seats needed to form a majority in the government, while the bloc led by Lapid falls short by about four to five seats. .

According to pollsters Joshua Huntman and Simon Davies, the final week of polling saw a slight rise for Netanyahu’s bloc, crossing the 61-seat mark in six polls, and failing in nine. The last three polls, published by the three major Israeli news channels on Friday, showed his bloc winning 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

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Recognizing the need for just one or two more seats, Netanyahu focused his election campaign on places that are Likud strongholds. Party officials previously claimed that hundreds of thousands of potential Netanyahu voters did not vote.

Another major factor is the Arab turnout. Citizens who identify as Arab and have national voting rights make up about 17% of Israel’s population, according to IDI; Their turnout could make or break Netanyahu’s chances. One party, the United Arab List, warned that if Arab turnout drops below 48%, some Arab parties may fail to pass the 3.25% voting threshold required to secure any seats in parliament.

Combined with soaring grocery and utilities bills and a near-impossible housing market, Tuesday’s vote takes place against the backdrop of an increasingly tense security environment.

Earlier this year, a wave of attacks targeting Israelis killed 19 people, including mass attacks targeting civilians in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. Armed attacks on Israeli forces and civilian settlers by Palestinian militants have also escalated in the occupied West Bank this year, claiming the lives of many Israeli soldiers and civilians. According to the IDF, there have been at least 180 shooting incidents in Israel and the occupied territories this year, compared to 61 shooting attacks in 2021.

In the days leading up to Election Day, one Israeli was killed and several others wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank near Hebron. On the following day, a number of soldiers were injured in a run-over attack near the city of Jericho in the West Bank. The Palestinian attackers were killed in both cases.

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

Almost daily Israeli security raids on West Bank cities have killed more than 130 Palestinians this year. While the Israeli military says most were armed or violently involved with them – including the newly formed Lion’s Den militia – unarmed and uninvolved civilians have also been arrested.

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The The death of Al-Jazeera correspondent Sherine Abu Akleh In May, while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank, it drew worldwide attention. Several months later, the Israeli military admitted that it was likely their soldiers had shot Abu Okla – saying it was an unintentional killing in the middle of a combat zone.

Palestinians’ disappointment with their leadership’s ability to confront the Israeli occupation This led to the spread of these new militias – Experts fear that a third Palestinian Intifada will erupt on the way.

There are 40 political parties on the ballot, although about 12 are expected to cross the threshold to sit in Parliament. Immediately after the polls close at 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET), major media networks release opinion polls that give a first glimpse into how the vote is going — although official vote tallies can vary from opinion polls, often in large amounts. Small but crucial.

A dozen or so parties are expected to pass the minimum number of votes needed to sit in parliament.

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

This candidate has a total of 42 days to try to muster enough parties to reach the magic number of 61 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to form a majority government. If they fail, 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, a last chance before new elections start. Lapid will remain in the position of caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.

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