Is­raelis vote in elec­tion fo­cused on long­time PM Ne­tanyahu

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

JAs many as a half­dozen par­ties are tee­ter­ing along the thresh­old for en­ter­ing the Knes­set, or par­lia­ment. A fail­ure by any of these par­ties to get the re­quired 3.25 per­cent of to­tal votes cast could have a dra­matic im­pact on who ul­ti­mately forms the next coali­tion. The Is­raeli govern­ment needs a par­lia­men­tary majority to rule, and since no party has ever earned more than half of the 120 seats in the Knes­set, a coali­tion is re­quired.

Ne­tanyahu and Gantz have ruled out sit­ting to­gether in govern­ment, so the next prime min­is­ter will likely come down to how many sup­port­ers each can­di­date can re­cruit. Is­rael’s pres­i­dent, Reu­ven Rivlin, could play an im­por­tant role. Though largely a cer­e­mo­nial post, the pres­i­dent is re­spon­si­ble for choos­ing the can­di­date with the best chance of build­ing a sta­ble coali­tion govern­ment as prime min­is­ter.

In the cam­paign’s fi­nal days, Ne­tanyahu has veered to the right and em­barked on a me­dia blitz in which he por­trays him­self as the un­der­dog and fran­ti­cally warns that “the right-wing govern­ment is in dan­ger.”

His na­tion­al­ist al­lies, how­ever, see the move as a re­peat of his 2015 elec­tion tac­tic to draw away their vot­ers as he did four

years ago when on elec­tion day, he warned of Arabs turn­ing out in “droves.” The scare tac­tics were seen as help­ing him seal a come-from-be­hind vic­tory.

Arab turnout will be a ma­jor is­sue this time as well. Ne­tanyahu’s cam­paign against Arab politi­cians, to­gether with the new al­liance with an­tiArab ex­trem­ists and the pas­sage of last year’s con­tentious na­tion-state law, which en­shrined Is­rael as the home­land of the Jew­ish peo­ple alone, have deep­ened calls for a bal­lot boy­cott in Arab com­mu­ni­ties.

But some hope these blows will have the op­po­site ef­fect, fu­el­ing enough frus­tra­tion to drive up the Arab par­tic­i­pa­tion rate, which is typ­i­cally lower than that of Is­raeli Jews. A big Arab turnout could push smaller right-wing par­ties into the mar­gins and even threaten Ne­tanyahu’s long rule.

The Pales­tinian is­sue has been largely side­lined in the elec­tion cam­paign that has been long on scan­dal and short on sub­stance. But in a re­minder, the mil­i­tary says it im­posed a 24-hour clo­sure on the West Bank and Gaza through­out elec­tion day, based on its se­cu­rity as­sess­ments.

Even if he is re-elected, Ne­tanyahu could have a difficult time gov­ern­ing. Some of his al­lies have in­di­cated they will no longer back him if for­mal charges are filed.

Is­rael’s at­tor­ney gen­eral has rec­om­mended in­dict­ing him on bribery and breach of trust charges in three sep­a­rate cases. Ri­vals have also be­gun to question a deal in which Ne­tanyahu re­port­edly earned $4 mil­lion on a Ger­man sub­ma­rine sale to Egypt by own­ing shares in one of the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer’s sup­pli­ers.

Ne­tanyahu de­nies any wrong­do­ing and claims the ac­cu­sa­tions are part of a lib­eral me­dia’s or­ches­trated witch hunt against him.

Ne­tanyahu has gen­er­ated much of his pop­u­lar­ity from pro­ject­ing a tough im­age in the face of Iran’s ris­ing power and for keep­ing Is­rael safe and pros­per­ous in a hos­tile re­gion.

But in Gantz he has en­coun­tered the rare op­po­nent who can match his se­cu­rity cre­den­tials. Along with two other for­mer mil­i­tary chiefs on his ticket, Gantz has at­tacked Ne­tanyahu for fail­ing to halt rocket fire from the Ha­mas-ruled Gaza Strip. The tele­genic Gantz, who has been vague on key pol­icy fronts, has pre­sented him­self as a clean, scan­dal-free al­ter­na­tive to Ne­tanyahu.

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