Israelis head to the polls today for the second time in five months to elect new parliament. Following the May
Israelis head to the polls today for the second time in five months to elect new parliament.
Following the May 30 election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, was unable to form a governing coalition. Today’s election is largely a referendum on Netanyahu’s conduct thus far, particularly in relation to his close ties to ultra-Orthodox parties and accusations of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
The PM’s chief challenger is his former military chief Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party, which, as of Friday, was polling neck-and-neck with Netanyahu’s Likud. The two parties should take roughly equal shares of the vote.
The real kingmaker over the next few days is likely to be Avigdor Liberman of the secular, ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party. With a campaign that has targeted the secular-religious divide in Israel, Liberman’s natural governing choice would be Blue and White. However, because his stance on security is more in line with Netanyahu’s, he could agree to govern with Likud. This would require major concessions from the ultra-Orthodox bloc, such as increasing military service for the ultra-religious and reversing laws that enforce observance of the Sabbath by shuttering stores and stopping public transportation on Saturdays.
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