NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 17: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a battle for political survival in a closely fought elections on Tuesday that could end his 10-year domination of national politics.
Opinion polls put former armed forces chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party neck-and-neck with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, and suggest the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party could emerge as kingmaker in coalition talks.
According to The Jerusalem Post, unofficial results will be available by Wednesday and the official winner will be declared on September 25.
Experts have predicted a lower voter turnout compared to the 67.9% in the April 9 elections, which could affect the results.
Netanyahu is running for re-election and a 5th term after becoming the country’s longest-serving leader in July. He was first elected Prime Minister in 2009.
There are 31 parties in the race, out of which 9 or 10 are expected to share the 120 seats that makeup Israel’s Parliament.
The top 2 most voted parties are expected to obtain around 30 seats which is likely to lead to formations with several parties.
Netanyahu has announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians seek statehood. But Blue and White has also said it would strengthen Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, with the Jordan Valley as Israel’s “eastern security border”.
The election was called after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following an April election in which Likud and Blue and White were tied, each taking 35 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament.
The 2 main parties’ campaigns in Israel’s 2nd parliamentary election in 5 months point to only narrow differences on many important issues: the regional struggle against Iran, ties with the Palestinians and the United States, and the stable economy.
Meanwhile, the latest opinion polls on Monday night showed that Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party was neck and neck with its main challenger, the centrist Blue and White party led by former military chief Benny Gantz, the BBC reported.
Last week, Netanyahu declared that he would “apply Israeli sovereignty” in the Jordan Valley if he won a record 5th term in office. The announcement amounted to a promise to effectively annex 30% of the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want to be part of a future state.
Netanyahu also reiterated a pledge from the last election to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank. (Courtesy: TS)