UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The Israelis are preparing to vote next March 2 in the third legislative elections in one year, hoping to end the political deadlock, but opinion polls indicate a fierce competition between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz despite the charges against the prime minister.
Two legislative votes last April and September did not allow the directing of a clear victor between right-wing Netanyahu and his opponent, Gantz, who leads a blue-white alliance.
It seems that Israeli voters, angry and desperate from the political stalemate, have lost their enthusiasm for these new elections, which they see could lead to a dead end as previous polls and perhaps a fourth election before the end of this year.
But there have been great developments since the last elections.
Netanyahu has become the only prime minister in the history of Israel who has been accused of corruption on a number of issues while carrying out his duties. The charges revealed in November and brought to justice last month are bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.
The most serious of these charges related to the Basic Case or “File 4000” case. Investigators accuse Netanyahu of trying to obtain positive coverage on the “Walla” website in exchange for granting government concessions that have brought millions of dollars to Shaul Ilovich, head of Basic Communications Group, and “Walla”.
Netanyahu rejected the accusations, considering them “fabricated” and “having a political background,” and described them as “a coup”, stressing that he remained in his post.
His trial will begin on March 17.
Since the last elections, US President Donald Trump has revealed his plan to end the long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians rejected it, considering it to be subject to Israeli targets.
Netanyahu welcomed while he was standing beside Trump at the White House when the initiative was announced last month, saying it was a “historic” opportunity for the Jewish state. He has portrayed the plan as a result of his personal relationship with Trump, believing that it cannot be implemented unless he is re-elected.
But neither the criminal charges nor Trump’s pro-Israel initiative influenced voters ’attitudes.
Opinion polls indicate that neither camp will win a majority of 61 out of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament.
Gideon Rahat, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, believes that the stalemate may be good news for Netanyahu.
“In the absence of any of the two camps being able to win a majority of seats in the Knesset, Netanyahu succeeds, at least in part, despite an indictment against him,” he said, adding that the prime minister “does not attract more voters, but he does not lose voters either.”
For his part, Gantz is trying to arouse enthusiasm among Israeli voters and urges them not to elect Netanyahu. This former military commander seeks to convince the Israelis that the prime minister’s legal troubles will divert him from office.
“On March 17, his term ends and the trial begins,” he said, adding that he “will no longer be able to take care of the Israeli citizens in addition to his issues.”
Meanwhile, Israeli prosecutors are investigating whether Information Security, “Fifth Diamond”, which was formerly headed by Gantz, received public funds inappropriately. But the prosecutor confirmed that Gantz was not personally involved in the investigation.
– Last minute strokes –
Prior to the previous elections, Netanyahu was accused of making pledges at the last minute of the campaign to obtain support from the main national right-wing.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Friday, Netanyahu repeated his warning that Gantz cannot form a government without support from the Arab Joint List and its leader, Ahmed Tibi.
This list won 13 seats in the Knesset in the last elections.
“If the Likud does not win, then there will be a fourth election or a leftist government in which Gantz relies on Ahmed Tibi and the joint list,” Netanyahu added to the newspaper.
The Israeli Prime Minister announced this week projects to build thousands of settlement units in East Jerusalem. The international community considers the settlements illegal.
The Arab parties supported Benny Gantz to form the government and adopted the slogan of toppling the Netanyahu government in the last elections. But the Blue and White Coalition (Kahul Levan) announced that it would not form a government with the support of the Arabs.
The joint list rejects Gantz’s support for his acceptance of the Trump plan. Its president, Ayman Odeh, said, “We do not want to replace one person with another, we want to change the approach.”
Facing the deadlock, both major parties have become increasingly concerned about turnout, he added.
“Where else in the world are three elections really held, the turnout is decreasing,” he said, due to voter indifference. However, the participation rate increased slightly in September compared to April.
“In Israel, no one can expect,” Rahat said.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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