Is It Netanyahu, Ben Gantz Or Another Impasse? What to Expect as Israel Goes To The Ballot For The Fifth Time In Four Years
"We are so close to victory," Netanyahu told his supporters at a recent campaign rally. The message was optimistic, but this may be his last chance at a comeback.
As Israelis goes to elections on Tuesday, for the fifth time in four years, they face the very same question of all the previous votes on whether the populist leader of Israel's right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted last year and is on trial for corruption, should lead the country.
Netanyahu who is on record as Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister is staging a come back
In retrospect, Israel seems to be relieving a moment in its past where polls ended up in a deadlock. However, this time around, though, commentators fear apathy than they would a stalemate as voters appear exhausted.
"There is an almost intolerable gap between the repulsive boredom these elections elicited from the moment they were announced, and their enormous potential for destruction," writes Ravit Hecht in Israeli daily Haaretz.
A frontrunner in the race, Netanyahu is allied with Israel's most far-right politicians in a quest to subdue the Arab community, take more control over the justice system and as critics fear - to dismiss his corruption trial.
The November 1 elections could be a possible come back for Netanyahu. Public opinion polls consistently show his right-wing Likud Party and ultra-Orthodox Jewish and far-right parties just shy of the 61 seats they need for a majority coalition in the 120-seat parliament.
If Netanyahu's bloc of parties manages to win 61 seats, Netanyahu would become prime minister. He has promised to appoint far-right figures as key Cabinet ministers, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has become the most influential right-wing figure in Israel besides Netanyahu.
A far-right activist with roots in an outlawed extremist movement, Ben-Gvir was previously convicted for supporting terrorism by calling for Arabs to be expelled. Today, he calls to exile those Arabs he deems to be actively against Israel, including Arab lawmakers.
The U.S. pro-Israel group AIPAC continues to shun him and his Jewish Power party, which it has called "racist and reprehensible." But Netanyahu's Likud party says Ben-Gvir has become more moderate.
"We need someone like Ben-Gvir, with his power of deterrence," says Netanyahu supporter Ortal Shlomo from Ofakim, a blue-collar town in Israel's south. "He has moderated from his extremism. We need him just as he is ... He will cause them (the Arabs) to go back into the holes where they came from."
Another possible outcome could see the Defense Minister Benny Gantz become the prime minister. Gantz may also be in a better position to break the impasse and form a coalition with elements of both pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu camps.
What doesn't seem likely is an outright win for the anti-Netanyahu bloc of parties which are a mixture of moderate right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties. Some are ideologically opposed to each other and would refuse to sit together in a coalition.
The only hope for the current centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid might be able a stalemate. According to polls, this may be a possible outcome, and one that would keep Lapid in office as a caretaker prime minister for several more months before yet another round of elections.
With the two top contestants being Netanyahu and Gantz, polls indicacte that neither Netanyahu's ring-wing Likud party nor Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid is likely to win the 61 seats on their own. Both men will be looking to build prospective coalitions with other, smaller political parties to make up the 61 seats in the Knesset required to form a government.
If both Netanyahu and Lapid fail to negotiate sufficient support from smaller parties, Israel could be forced to hold yet another election.
A lose for Netanyahu could however mean his eventual exit from the arena of Israel politics and precisely, his grasp on the Likud leadership. A fifth defeat could result to defections in his Likud party, making it harder for him to return to office.
At a recent campaign rally, Netanyahu told his supporters, "We are so close to victory." The message was optimistic, but this may be his last chance at a comeback.