Elections in Israel – The next round for Bibi

Israel used to be in the international media mainly because of the controversial expansion of settlements. It was only this January that Israel published plans to build 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in occupied territories. Thereof 2,112 residential units in the West Bank and 460 in East Jerusalem.

Such settlement activities in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 have repeatedly led to international criticism, and the new US administration under Joe Biden – unlike his predecessor Donald Trump – is critical of the settlements.

With Donald Trump’s election, a powerful ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has disappeared from the scene for the time being. But Netanyahu got support from an unexpected source this year: The corona pandemic, which initially raged in Israel like hardly any other country, is likely to be the strongest advocate for the long-term head of government in a certain way in the parliamentary elections on Tuesday.

Because Netanyahu rightly calls his country “world vaccination champion”. Almost half of Israel’s nine million inhabitants have already been vaccinated twice with the vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer. This means that the country is by far ahead in a global comparison. Israel had received large quantities of the vaccine because its highly digitized health system guarantees rapid access to valuable data on the effectiveness of the vaccines. Concerns about the “transparent patient” are virtually non-existent in Israel.

The successful vaccination campaign could act as a lifebuoy in the elections for Benjamin Netanyahu. Because the political survivor is actually in distress because of the ongoing corruption investigations against him. In Israel, people regularly take to the streets to protest for the election of the national-conservative head of government who has been in office for almost 13 years.

That contributes to the polarization – for or against Bibi? As Netanyahu is also called.

Netanyahu and his Likud party are the only political constant in the country, which today will elect a new parliament for the fourth time in two years.

According to data from the Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI), a new parliament has been elected in Israel every 2.3 years on average since 1996 – more than, for example, in European countries, Japan and Canada.

Netanyahu has already failed three times in an attempt to forge a right-wing religious coalition he wanted. Judging by surveys, a fourth time can be expected.

Sitting out blue and white

The domestic political forces have changed, however. The 71-year-old political veteran Netanyahu successfully sat out his main opponent in the last three elections: Benny Gantz. In the April 2019 election, Gantz and his center-left alliance Blau-Weiß achieved 35 seats – as many as Likud Netanyahu. The Knesset, which is divided between many parties, has a total of 120 seats, 61 are necessary for a majority. Netanyahu then failed to find a majority for a governing coalition among the small parties either. When there was re-election in September of the same year, Netanyahu only got 32 seats, Gantz already 33. Netanyahu proposed a unity government, Gantz refused.

In the elections in March 2021, Netanyahu has 36 seats, Gantz another 33. In view of the corona pandemic, both politicians finally agreed – on a unity government with the same distribution of roles. Netanyahu should remain in office for another 18 months, after which Gantz is to take over the office of prime minister for the same period of time.

But as early as December, the fragile alliance collapsed when Netanyahu refused to approve a budget for 2021. The coalition agreement actually stipulated that the government would adopt a budget for 2020 and 2021. Netanyahu had withdrawn this commitment and only wanted a budget for the current year. The head of government himself named the extraordinary circumstances of the corona crisis as the reason. However, critics assumed that, among other things, he wanted to prevent Gantz from taking over the office of head of government from him in the autumn of 2021, as agreed.

The government is bursting with it, new elections are scheduled – and Gantz may be history.

Because in today’s elections, blue and white could even miss entry into parliament because Gantz has fallen in favor of his voters. Many did not forgive him for joining a government with Netanyahu – after all, this was one of the reasons why they voted for Gantz to vote Netanyahu out of office.

Netanyahu’s Likud is predicted to be clearly the strongest party. But with an expected 28 seats, Bibi will also suffer losses compared to the previous year. The reason for this is on the one hand the pending corruption process and on the other hand new competition at the ballot box. This time even someone who comes from their own conservative ranks: Netanyahu’s former party colleague Gideon Saar is now running with the New Hope party, which was founded in December 2020. According to surveys, it has nine seats from a standing start. Politically, Saar is to the right of Netanyahu. His important positions include supporting the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In any case, forming a government will be difficult again.(wak)

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