JERUSALEM – Tuesday could be a big day for former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Israelis have returned to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years, the former Israeli leader is growing in hopes that a whirlwind election campaign and more than a year in opposition will be enough to bring him back to power.
However, his path to the premiership is complicated. Firstly by the fact that he is currently involved in a high-profile criminal trial which includes allegations of corruption, fraud and breach of trust, and secondly by the other political parties he may need to build his future coalition, which includes a faction made up of controversial far-right politicians.
Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history, was ousted in the last round of voting in March 2021. Since then, he has witnessed the opposition bench as his rivals – formerly Naftali Bennett and now Yair Lapid – led the country. with a fragile ruling coalition that included, for the first time ever, a controversial party from the country’s Arab minority sector.
In an interview with Fox News Digital on Friday, Netanyahu said he felt confident he could win this election and return to power with a more solid and ideologically aligned government.
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“I think there is a very good chance of winning this time around because people have tasted the difference,” Netanyahu said, adding, “They’ve put in a different government that has made an alliance – and that’s going to shock you with the Muslim Brotherhood. “They are actually part of the existing coalition that has been unraveled and it is unfathomable because these people do not recognize the Jewish state and support terrorists who try to kill Israelis.”
Netanyahu said he believed many Israelis wanted to see him return, leading a government that is “committed to Israel as a Jewish state” and “to restore a powerful economy, a powerful army and security for all Israelis.”
Netanyahu’s confidence in his return to power is somewhat reflected in polls published in recent weeks which show he may have a harder time getting reelected than Yair Lapid, who has been interim prime minister since June, when Bennett announced his retirement. from political Israel after holding elections five months ago. However, he also faces a myriad of challenges that could leave him permanently sidelined.
While Israel’s fragmented parliamentary system means that no single political party can win an outright election, polls suggest that a group of right-wing religious parties that have pledged to support Netanyahu’s leadership offer could collectively garner the necessary number of seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to form the next government.
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To form a ruling coalition, Netanyahu needs 61 seats in the Knesset out of 120 possible. Polls released on Friday, the last day of voting allowed by law, show Netanyahu and the parties are committed to his return by reaching only 60, although with a margin of error and the last few days of intense campaigning that number could certainly increase. .
“Any small change in the choice of grading between camps or within camps can have a significant impact,” said Dr Liron Lavi, a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University.
Furthermore, Lavi pointed out that while Netanyahu could certainly choose to form a government with the parties that supported him during the campaign – two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and a religious nationalist party – if his own Likud party could muster more numbers. of voters, would be in a better position to negotiate an alternative coalition, possibly with the party led by current Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
“It is not surprising that in the last week or so the two main parties [Likud and Lapid’s Yesh Atid] they played the card of the big party: we know that in the Israeli political system it is not the largest party that forms the government, but anyone can form a coalition “, said Lavi.” In these elections, however, the size of the party is crucial , especially for the Likud, because a large Likud will give Netanyahu the flexibility to choose his coalition partners. ”
Netanyahu has been criticized both inside and outside Israel for saying he is willing to include the national religious party – religious Zionism – in a future coalition. The confab, which consists of three far-right parties, features characters such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, a disciple of the American rabbi and member of the Knesset Meir Kahana, who was murdered by a terrorist in New York in 1990, and Bezalel Smotrich, a former transport minister. , who is an outspoken supporter of Israeli settlement on the lands Palestinians hope for a future state.
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Ben-Gvir and Smotrich have been targeted in the past for derogatory comments against the country’s Arab minority, and both have declared far-reaching plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system, which they say is corrupt, partial and too powerful. . The two also hinted at their willingness to stop the criminal proceedings against Netanyahu, a step that has raised those who oppose his return to arms.
When asked by Fox News about Ben-Gvir’s party who joined his coalition, Netanyahu called the concern “ridiculous”.
“I’ve had parties on my right, including a party of this same persuasion, and they haven’t controlled politics,” Netanyahu told Fox. “For God’s sake, we are the largest party, I am the prime minister and we control politics.”
“I have always questioned the people who ask this question against me,” he continued. “I said, Where were you when the current government formed a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood that wants to see Israel disappear and does not accept the United States as it is currently formed? How come you are talking about people who recognize the Jewish state,” who support the IDF, or who have been cleared by our Supreme Court, which controls all parties?
Less than 24 hours before the polls opened on Monday, Netanyahu made a dramatic announcement that he was increasingly concerned about voter turnout for those affiliated with Likud and called an emergency strategy meeting at his headquarters. Tel Aviv. His failure to secure 61 seats for his blockade or to increase the size of his Likud party could, this time, end his political career forever, some local experts say.
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Jonathan Rynhold, who heads Bar Ilan University’s Department of Political Studies, said there was a good chance Netanyahu would question the legitimacy of the election results if he didn’t get 61 seats.
“You will have seen Trump did this and while I don’t expect the equivalent of January 6 in Israel, Netanyahu can cause a lot of chaos in the political system if he challenges the results,” Rynhold said. “This will be more likely if the results are very close.