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Netanyahu is hoping for a comeback in Israel’s general election

Netanyahu is hoping for a comeback in Israel’s general election

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TEL AVIV — Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies won at least 61 seats, enough to form a majority in the Knesset, according to preliminary exit polls released Tuesday night, marking the potential return of Israel’s longest-serving and most polarizing leader.

Israel’s election on Tuesday – the fifth since 2019 – was a referendum on Netanyahu, who until last year had ruled Israel for twelve consecutive years. While critics feared Netanyahu’s victory would embolden the ultra-nationalist far-right, others hoped it would mark the end of a political crisis that has left the country in limbo.

Exit polls published by Israel’s three main television channels showed that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc was set to secure between 61 and 62 seats, the minimum required to form a governing coalition. The current government is led by centrist interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, which was predicted to win between 54 and 55 seats.

The far-right bloc that joined Netanyahu’s coalition, known as Religious Zionism, was predicted to win between 14 and 15 seats – an unprecedented result for a movement once considered too extreme for mainstream politics.

Elections in Israel: Far-right politician moves closer to power

The predominantly Arab and leftist paper, Hadash-Taal, a possible kingmaker, is predicted to win four seats. It is still unclear whether another Arab party, Balad, will cross the electoral threshold of four seats.

It will probably take a few days before a clear picture emerges.

In the last election in 2021, Netanyahu was similarly predicted to win the majority that would allow him to form a coalition, but ultimately fell short. The final number for Tuesday’s contest will not be announced until Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

As of 2019, the Israeli political system is at a standstill. Neither Netanyahu nor his opponents have come close to completing their four-year term. The latest elections followed the collapse of the “change of government” — a coalition of ideologically divided parties united solely by the desire to oust Netanyahu — after just one year in power, after a cascade of he defected by coalition members.

Netanyahu’s plans to return as the prime minister could give him more legal leverage in his ongoing corruption trial. He falsely claimed that the trial was a “witch hunt” organized by the Israeli left.

Amid reports of a large turnout on Tuesday, Netanyahu recorded an “emergency broadcast” with his entourage while on his way to an event in the southern city of Ashkelon, warning of a “large turnout of voters in left-wing bastions.”

He answered questions from followers, one of whom complained about voter exhaustion after five rounds of elections.

“Right now we are tied 60-60. Can we afford exhaustion?” Netanyahu said. “If you don’t go vote, then you will see exhaustion.”

Lapid, Netanyahu’s centrist opponent, voted Tuesday morning near his home in Tel Aviv.

“This election is between the future and the past,” Lapid tweeted.

Netanyahu is poised for a possible return to power, dividing Israel again

If Netanyahu is called upon to form a government, he still faces the daunting challenge of trying to muster a parliamentary majority in the Knesset at a time of unprecedented division.

His strategy was to embrace the extreme right, led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir. The once fringe politicians have become an attraction this election season, storming the courts and advocating the expulsion of “disloyal” Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel.

Flipping hot dogs on an Election Day grill in the West Bank neighborhood of Efrat, Gadi Rivkin, 36, a Milwaukee father of four, said he voted for Ben Gvir to protect Israel’s Jewish character.

“Demographics matter here,” he said. “I want someone in the Knesset who represents my interests, someone who wants the state to be a strong Jewish state.”

Ben Gvir is “the king! He kills terrorists!” said Shmuel Nemirovski, 30, getting into a motorcycle with a Ben Gvir campaign sticker outside a polling station in Ma’alot Dafna, an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.

Omer Attias, 23, a law and art history student living in Tel Aviv, called the Ben Gvir phenomenon “disturbing.”

She voted for the left-wing Labor Party, part of the anti-Netanyahu coalition, and said she hoped the new government could deliver changes for her generation: the introduction of public transport on Saturdays, long blocked by ultra-Orthodox parties; and laws that would further strengthen women’s rights, including access abortion.

The procedure is available to virtually all women in Israel, but a reversal of Roe v. Wade in the United States it encouraged a legislative review here it makes it easier to access, but it has also caused less of a reaction from the right.

“Not all the years under Netanyahu were bad, but now we have to ensure that we can protect Israel’s liberal values,” Attias said.

The polls, which have remained virtually unchanged over the past four months, showed that the pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu blocs were neck and neck.

“Even though I’m tired, I know I have to vote because I don’t want fanatics to come to power,” said Eden Ronen, 27, who decided to vote for Lapid only at a polling station near her childhood home in the central Israeli city of Rishon. LeZion.

“People like Ben Gvir used to be disqualified from politics, and now suddenly, like, sababa, cool. But they could have so much power, and I don’t want them to use that power against me, to set the whole country back,” she said.

Small parties will be just as critical to the bottom line as larger ones. Any of the three politically unrelated Palestinian parties could play a decisive role. The same applies to the ultra-orthodox parties, which, unlike the last election, did not promise to support Netanyahu. After a year out of power, the parties are under pressure to find support for their underfunded schools and institutions.

“Bibi Netanyahu is not giving us what we should be getting,” said Nachum Rosenberg, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

Rosenberg grew up in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem where, he said, his school was underfunded. He now lives in Brooklyn, but extended his visit to Israel for the Jewish holidays so he could vote. His rabbi here instructed him to vote for ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism.

“My rabbi sees Israel going a certain way,” he said — namely, toward a more secular way of life in which institutions and public services are open on the Sabbath, the Jewish Sabbath. “If you don’t pay attention, you’ll lose your specificity.”

Israeli security forces were on high alert on Tuesday, with more than 18,000 officers deployed at polling stations across the country. The army is implementing a complete closure of the occupied West Coast, terrorist attack warning.

Onslaught of Palestinians attacks this year resulted in an Israeli strike on the West Bank, especially around the northern city Jenin. Escalating Israeli attacks led to 2022 the deadliest year for Palestinians since the United Nations began recording such data in 2005.

Palestinian Israeli Kamel Jabarin, 37, said he is concerned about the implications of Israel’s shift to the right on Palestinian rights and the possibility of a third intifada, or mass uprising.

“We Palestinians, we have been hit again and again, in an increasingly powerful way,” Jabarin said.

Palestinian Israelis are divided and disillusioned as elections approach

He traveled to the polling station in Sheikh Jarrah, east Jerusalem, on Tuesday from his home in the Shuafat refugee camp – home to more than 100,000 Palestinians, many of them descendants of those who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 war. largely ignored by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Garbage collection, water pipes, sewage systems and other basic infrastructure are minimal. Unemployment is high and violence is on the rise.

Jabarin, who received Israeli citizenship in 2014, decided on his vote at the last minute. He voted for Ra’am, the Arab Islamist party – the first Arab party to be included in the ruling coalition in Israel – “because it is a party based in reality and will support the services of Palestinian society.”

But this election campaign, like many in the past, only peripherally addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With only two weeks of the campaign in the middle general political fatigue, the parties instead focused on strengthening their base and encouraging people to vote.

Outside a polling station in Jerusalem, Eric Binisti, 51, a hospital clown, said he hoped Netanyahu would win, “because I love Israel, I love the security of Israel. I love all people, Arabs and Jews.”

“But it’s the same as before,” he said, referring to the seemingly endless election cycle. “Today, who do we have? Bibi? Lapidus? They are like my profession — clowns!”



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