For the first time in 13 years, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not run as incumbent. Bibi, who is widely known in Israel, is hoping to return to power as the head of a far-right coalition, while the central caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid hopes the mantle of the position The prime minister will help him stay in position.
Netanyahu issued a stark warning as he cast his ballot on Tuesday morning.
When asked by CNN about fears he would lead a far-right government if he returned to office, Netanyahu responded with an explicit mention of the Ra’am party, which made history last year by became the first Arab party to join the Israeli government coalition. .
“We do not want a government with the Muslim Brotherhood, who support terrorism, deny the existence of Israel and are quite hostile to the United States. That’s what we’re going to bring,” Netanyahu told CNN in English, at his polling station in Jerusalem.
Lapid, who hopes he and his political allies will defy poll predictions and stay in power, cast his vote in Tel Aviv on Tuesday with a message to voters: “Hi morning, vote wisely. Vote for the State of Israel, the future of children and our future in general.” The name of Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, means “have a future.”
The country is on track to have the highest turnout in an election since 1999. Voter turnout was 47.5% by mid-afternoon, the Central Election Commission said, higher. five points higher than at the same time in the previous vote.
There was a strong voter drive ahead of Tuesday, with Mr Netanyahu slamming into the country in a van converted into a bulletproof moving stage and Arab parties urging Arab citizens to vote. to keep Mr. Netanyahu out.
But if the polls end up on target, it’s unlikely that this round of voting will be more successful in removing logjam than the previous four. Polls predict that Netanyahu’s bloc will be one seat short of a parliamentary majority.
As in the previous four elections, Netanyahu himself – and the possibility of a government led by him – is one of the deciding issues, especially as his corruption trial continues. One poll by the Israeli Democratic Institute (IDI) in August found that a quarter of respondents said the identity of the leader of the party they are voting for was the second most important factor on their ballot.
But some leading center-right politicians, who agree with him ideologically, refuse to work with him for personal or political reasons. So, for a comeback, Netanyahu, leader of the centre-right Likud party, will likely depend on the support of far-right parties to form a coalition – and if successful, could be forced to bring in politicians their leadership. ministerial positions.
Israelis are also very worried about the cost of living, after seeing their utility and grocery bills skyrocket this year. In the same IDI poll, 44% said their first priority was what a party’s economic plan would do to minimize the cost of living.
And security, always a key issue in Israeli politics, is at the heart of voters – 2022 is the worst year for conflict-related deaths for both Israelis and Palestinians since 2015. .
One Recent compilation of polls compiled by Haaretz shows that Netanyahu’s bloc of parties is likely to gain only – or gain only – the 61 seats needed to secure a majority in government, while the Lapid-led bloc lacks about 4-5 seats .
According to polls Joshua Hantman and Simon Davies, last week’s poll saw a slight bump to Netanyahu’s bloc, showing the bloc passed the 61-seat mark in six polls and dropped nine left. The last three polls were published on Friday by the three major Israeli news channels, all showing his block at 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
Realizing the need to win just one or two more seats, Netanyahu focused his campaign on places that were strongholds for Likud. Party officials had previously stated that hundreds of thousands of Netanyahu voters likely did not vote.
Another major factor is the Arab electorate. According to the IDI, citizens who identify as Arab and have the right to vote nationally make up about 17% of Israel’s population; Their presence could make or break Netanyahu’s chances. One of the parties, the United Arab List, has warned that if voter turnout in Saudi Arabia falls below 48%, some Arab parties may not pass the 3.25% vote threshold needed to win. get any seat in parliament.
Coupled with soaring utility and grocery bills and a near-viable housing market, Tuesday’s vote comes amid an increasingly tense security environment.
Earlier this year, a wave of attacks targeting Israelis left 19 people dead, including mass attacks on civilians in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. There has also been a series of armed attacks on Israeli troops and civilian settlers by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank this year, claiming the lives of several Israeli soldiers and civilians. . According to the Israel Defense Forces, there have been at least 180 shootings in Israel and the occupied territories this year, compared with 61 shootings in 2021.
In the days leading up to the election, an Israeli man was killed and several wounded in a gun attack in the West Bank near Hebron. The next day, several soldiers were wounded in a car attack near the West Coast city of Jericho. Palestinian attackers were killed in both cases.
According to human rights group B’Tselem, attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank – and sometimes against Israeli soldiers – are also on the rise.
Daily Israeli security raids in West Bank cities have killed more than 130 Palestinians this year. While the Israeli military says it’s mostly militias or Palestinians engaged in violence against them – including the newly formed ‘Lion’s Den’ militia – unarmed and unsupported civilians have also been involved. arrested.
The death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in May when news of an Israeli military raid in the West Bank gained worldwide attention. After a few months, the Israeli military admitted it was most likely its own soldiers who shot Abu Akleh – saying it was an unintentional killing in the middle of a battle area.
Palestinians disillusioned with their own leadership in the face of Israeli occupation led to the rise of these new militias — and experts fear that a third Palestinian uprising is underway.
There are 40 political parties on the ballot, though only about a dozen are expected to cross the threshold to sit in parliament. As soon as the polls close at 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET), major media networks release polls on how the voting is going – although the official count of votes may differ from opinion polls, often by small but very important numbers.
Only a dozen or so parties are expected to pass the minimum number of votes required to sit in parliament.
After the official vote is closed, Israeli President Isaac Herzog will assign the task of forming a government to the leader he thinks is most likely to succeed – even if they are not the leader of Israel. biggest party.
That candidate then has a total of 42 days to try and rally enough parties to reach the magic number of 61 seats of the 120-seat Knesset, the Israeli parliament, to form a majority government. If they fail, the President can transfer the task to another candidate. If that person is unsuccessful within 28 days, he or she will return to parliament, which has 21 days to find a candidate, one last chance before new elections are held. Lapid will remain prime minister until a new government is formed.