Uncertainty Ahead of Israel's "Do-Over" Election By Phillip Howard
Israel is facing uncertainty heading into Tuesday’s elections. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to establish a coalition in the Knesset, falling one seat short of forming a ruling government.
Netanyahu is neck and neck with his main election challenger, Benny Gantz, leader of the opposition Blue and White alliance. Gantz has recently been on the offensive, attacking Netanyahu over a planned annexation of the West Bank.
“We are happy that Netanyahu has come around to adopt the Blue and White plan to recognize the Joran Valley,” Gantz said, adding that the plan was stolen by Netanyahu. Internationally, the idea has been condemned by Arab countries, including the UN and the EU.
According to Dahlia Scheindlin, a Tel Aviv based political analyst and public opinion expert, the plan is highly popular among Israelis because “the public only unites against annexation when the realize Palestinians swept up in sovereignty might be equal to Israelis,” referring to the fact that Palestinians living in the West Bank would be given citizenship, as well as voting rights.
A majority of Palestinian citizens in Israel feel that Netanyahu’s actions motivate them to come out more than ever to vote. “When we find [Netanyahu] speaking in a racist way about us, we’re more adamant to vote because we want to push against his tactics…even if it doesn’t succeed, at least we make our voice heard,” said Amin, a 21-year-old student about Netanyahu.
Another student, Sama, studying medicine in Tel Aviv, says she feels similarly about wanting to vote this time around. “When cameras were set up at polling stations in April, I felt there wasn’t a point in voting. But this time, while many people still feel disillusioned, it makes me want to challenge Netanyahu and vote,” she said.
Another issue facing Netanyahu on continuing his reign as the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history is Avigdor Liberman, a former defense minister under Netanyahu. Lieberman and his political party, Yisrael Beiteinu, are predicted to win enough seats to become the deciding factor in forming a government.
“It seems that the prospects are high for a government with Lieberman determining who the other partners will be,” said Dan Avnon, Chair of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Current polls show the right wing parties polling with stronger than ever numbers, but both Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White alliance are neck and neck in the amount of seats they will win (between 30-32 seats each).
Phillip Howard is a graduate student at Utica College