The highest turnout in Israel in decades reopens the way for Netanyahu to come to power. With 44.6% of the vote counted, his Likud party was confirmed as the number one party with 32 seats. In second place is Yesh Atid, the party of Prime Minister Yair Lapid, with 25 seats, and in third place is the far-right Religious Zionism party led by Itamar Ben Gvir, with 15 seats.
“We are close to a major victory,” Netanyahu told supporters gathered in Jerusalem. Thus, “King Bibi” is preparing to regain the scepter in the fifth elections in 3 years. “Until the last envelope, nothing says it’s over,” Lapid says. Exit polls give the right-wing coalition 61/62 seats out of 120 for governing, and 54/55 for Yesh Atid. A victory – if the actual count of the votes confirms the exit – puts the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history back in command, even more than father-of-the-country David Ben-Gurion.
The vote also represents a flowering of religious Zionism for Itamar Ben Gvir, a right-wing racist anti-Arab extremist who wants to annex the entire West Bank without granting Palestinian rights, and who intends to relax the rules of engagement for soldiers and agents. The pickaxe of the Supreme Court, the constitutional bastion of Israel. He – and his comrade Bezalel Smotrich – won 14/15 seats: a historic victory, according to all analysts and commentators. Ben Gvir has already mortgaged the victory by asking the Ministry of Public Security in recent days. It will be difficult for Netanyahu to dispense with those seats, even if the United States and the Gulf states, led by the UAE, warn the former (and future) prime minister that Ben Gvir’s entry into the government will only have negative repercussions on the Abrahamic agreements. Then there are the religious parties, Labor, the left-wing Meretz, and the Arab Islamic party led by Mansour Abbas (Labid’s great ally), while Hadash Tal’s communists remained abroad.
What was striking, however, was the turnout: at 20 it was 66.3%, nearly 6 points more than the March 2021 elections. In any case, it was the busiest poll since 1999. Aware of the dangers of breaking out of the political impasse they It led to all the parties that had taken over in Israel time and again their electors to go to the polls. Starting with Prime Minister Yair Lapid who – after voting early in the morning at a polling station near his home in a Tel Aviv suburb with his wife Lehi – urged Israelis to express their choices. “Go and vote today for the future of our children and the future of our country.” Benjamin Netanyahu was no less. As he did in all previous elections, the former prime minister, through his Facebook, constantly called his Likud supporters to go to the polls. Today he wandered into some malls claiming that turnout on the left was high, while the right is out for shopping.
Ben Gvir made the same pressure, even renting a helicopter to go to the central region of the country. Ben Gvir – against whom the entire current Lapid bloc has erected a wall condemning what he called racist and fascist ideology – voted in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. In the evening, the final call to both Lapid and Netanyahu: to mobilize their voters confirmed that the blocs are “face to face.” But in the end, the magician, Netanyahu’s other nickname, appears to have won. Now – if the real data confirms the exit groups – it is up to President Isaac Herzog to start the consultations: the name at the top of the list is again Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prime minister said that “the rise of extreme right-wing religious parties in the Israeli elections, according to television opinion polls, is a natural result of the increasing manifestations of extremism and racism in Israeli society, which our people have been suffering from for years.” Ma’an News Agency quoted Muhammad Shtayyeh, president of the Palestinian National Authority.
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