JERUSALEM, Israel - In less than two weeks, Israelis will head to the polls for the fourth time in less than two years. The outcome will have a profound impact on the future of the Jewish State and the Middle East.
Two major forces currently define Israel’s political landscape. One is the left vs. The right. The other is those parties against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those for him. Given that situation, some political observers say Israel may face another election result like the last three.
“The dynamics in many ways are still the same,” explained CBN News Senior Editor John Waage. “Benjamin Netanyahu is pretty much the favorite to be prime minister again. He’s got plenty of challengers, very few of them like him. And the electorate is deeply divided, not the least of which is over COVID and the religious/secular divide between the ultra-Orthodox and secular society which is really has deepened in that time."
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At the moment, Netanyahu and his allies may hold a slim advantage.
“Right now it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu and his preferred coalition partners are hovering [around] the 61 magic number out of 120 Knesset members, which is what he needs in order to form a majority coalition but the math is very tenuous,” said Alex Traiman, Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the Jewish News Syndicate.
Math is the key to Israel’s elections and the goal is to get those 61 seats in the Israeli parliament to gain a majority and form a coalition. Given the electoral landscape, Naftali Bennett, a former senior member of Netanyahu’s cabinet and now head of the right-wing Yamina party, may become a kingmaker.
“He’s not committed to sitting with Netanyahu. However, unlike the other parties, he has not ruled out sitting with Netanyahu,” said Traiman. “Yet if all those parties do not make 61, Bennett is still in a kingmaker situation and there’s even talk about parties that are larger than the Yamina party led by Bennett could even offer Naftali Bennett to be the prime minister in some sort of a rotation agreement.”
Yet the majority of Israelis still prefer Netanyahu.
“The polls all indicate that the Israeli public seems to indicate that Benjamin Netanyahu is by far the most qualified of all the other candidates to be the prime minister,” Traiman explained.
Whoever becomes prime minister, two issues dominate the minds of Israelis as they go to the polls, coronavirus and Iran.
“Restarting the economy is probably the most important issue if you ask Israelis. However, there are looming security threats which are very large, including the Iranian issue. And particularly how one deals with the United States and the western European nations which are pushing to back into a renewed Iranian nuclear agreement, the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].”
The impact of a new US administration is another major factor.
“It seems like if the United States embarks on a “back to the future” policy of going back five or six years to, you know, putting more pressure on Israel and easing the brake up on Iran, that is going to make Iran more inclined to test the waters and see what they can do to become Israel’s greater adversaries,” said Waage.
What Israelis decide will make a huge difference not only for Israel but for the region.
“The consequences of this Israeli election are really, stability for Israel,” Waage said. “If Israel continues to be in chaos and Washington continues to be in chaos, there are going to be a lot of powers around the world tempted to exert their influence and make their mark in the Middle East and that’s probably dangerous for all of us. So, it’s a good thing to be praying for stability in both capitals.”
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