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Israeli Election: Netanyahu Appears To Keep Knesset Control Despite Tie

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting with Ukraine's Prime Minister, 2018. Netanyahu appears to have won enough support in the Israeli election
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting with Ukraine's Prime Minister, 2018. (Photo:Кабінет Міністрів України)

While Netanyahu and his Likud party tied with the opposition Blue and White party, right-wing parties outperformed left-wing parties in the Israeli election meaning a conservative government is likely to form.

“It’s looking bleak but the results are not yet final. It’s possible that there will be electoral shifts, and that we can make certain political moves,” wrote Benny Gantz co-leader of the Centrist Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party of Israel when speaking to party members on Wednesday morning after the recent Israeli election.

Gantz spoke of the hopeful voters who supported the party in their efforts to challenge the right-wing Lukid party led by controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They wanted a different way and we showed it to them. We will not back down from our public duty to represent over a million people who asked us for something different. It’s an unprecedented historical victory. We should be proud.”

Despite what appears to be a statistical 29.2% tie between Blue and White (35) and Likud (35) in the Israeli election, the right-wing parties Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Yisrael Beiteinu (5), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), and Kulanu (4) seem to be willing to form a government with Lukid — according to early reports. The total 65 seats would push a right-wing coalition over the 60 seat majority needed to make a government and give Netanyahu another term.

Comparingly parties on the left weren’t able to garner as many combined seats: Labor (6), Hadash-Ta’al (6), Meretz (4), and United Arab List-Balad (4) would only combine with Blue and White for 55 total seats. With 94% of the votes counted, it’s unlikely the current numbers will change significantly.

Netanyahu Concerns

Election analysts and observers on the Israeli Haaretz publication have cautioned that a right-wing Knesset coalition may quickly move to absolve Prime Minister Netanyahu from his three corruption indictments, calling into question the strength of Israel’s democracy.

“When election time comes in Israel, he always tries going even further to the right by appealing to racism within Israel, I think it’s unfortunate,” United States Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stated to reporters inquiring on his thoughts concerning the Israeli election. “I’m not a great fan of his, and, frankly, I hope he loses his election.”

“The Likud party spent hundreds of thousands of shekels to provide its observers in polling stations in Arab communities 1,200 hidden cameras,” Haaretz reported on the intimidation tactic used by the Lukid party during election day. Israeli police reportedly confiscated “dozens” of these cameras and “Judge Hanan Melcer, the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, agreed in a snap opinion, prohibiting filming unless a genuine concern emerges that the purity of election is in danger.”

According to early reporting, Arab voters reportedly turned out at 44% according to the Hadash-Ta’al alliance, however, down from the 64% Arab turnout in 2015. If turnout had met or exceeded 2015 totals, it’s possible government may have formed under a Blue and White led coalition. Calls for Arab voters to boycott the Israeli election played a role in the lower turnout.

Blue and White Overperforms But Falls Short

United States President Donald Trump was accused of attempting to boost the Netanyahu campaign after proclaiming it was time for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Although the action wasn’t at complete odds with previous comments by Gantz, the leader of Blue and White, it did allow for Netanyahu to receive positive attention in some Israeli outlets. While the Blue and White platform fell short of what would be agreeable to Palestinians, it remained more favorable than the approach taken by Netanyahu and the Lukid party.

Blue and White also called for adding protections for non-Jewish Israeli citizens into the troubling Nation-State Law, which passed in the Knesset last year. The controversial bill declared Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and that the right to national self-determination is “unique to the Jewish people.”

“All the representatives of the Druze population were at my home to discuss the Nation-State Law… We sat and we talked,” Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid began at a February campaign event. “I said there, and I will say it again — we will fix the Nation-State Law.”

“…Add a civil equality article, because of people like [the Druze] who serve in combat and deserve all their rights from the state,” Lapid would add when explaining how Blue and White would make the law more equitable.

Polls leading up to the Israeli election on Tuesday showed Blue and White possible only winning 30 seats, despite overperforming in the results, the party’s inability to form a government means Netanyahu could move on his authoritarian promise to annex the West Bank.

While Blue and White will be in opposition, it’s clear that they are established as a clear alternative to Lukid, and could lead a coalition government after the next national election.

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Walter Yeates

Walter Yeates is a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter who embedded at Standing Rock with military Veterans and First People in December 2016. He covers a range of topics at Citizen Truth and is open for tips and suggestions. Twitter: www.twitter.com/GentlemansHall or www.twitter.com/SmoothJourno Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/walteryeates

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