According to initial polls, Netanyahu is projected to win 34 seats in the Knesset in the upcoming 1 November elections. Allied ultra-orthodox parties will probably garner 24, meaning the former premier would still be three seats short of making a comeback.
Israel officially launched its election season last week, with parties competing for 120 seats at the Israeli parliament ? the Knesset. The elections are expected to take place on 1 November, and Israeli media polls are already releasing their projections for the upcoming race.
A Comeback for Netanyahu
Ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the latest polls.
His Likud Party is projected to grab 34 seats in the chamber, four more than the March 2021 elections. Other surveys predict that he may win even more spots.
Aviv Bushinsky, who served as Netanyahu’s media advisor, explained that there is an “80 percent chance” his former boss will soon be making a comeback.
Bushinsky claimed that the policies of the Naftali Bennett government help Netanyahu’s popularity, despite his ongoing trial in which he is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
“The previous government did a number of good things like the way they handled COVID-19, the quiet they established vis-a-vis Gaza and the fact that there is no deficit in Israel,” said Bushinsky. “But that coalition was weak. It couldn’t legislate anything.
They focused on the maintenance and on counting seats and they created a feeling among many Israelis that the Arabs dominate the parliament unproportionally. Their demands were too high and very often [those Arab parties] aligned themselves with the Palestinians,” he added.
Since its inception in June 2021, the Bennett government has been relying on the support of Raam, an Islamic parliamentary faction believed to have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
To win its support, the government allocated some $10.5 billion to the needs of the Arab community, specifically to tackle growing crime rates and unemployment, as well as improve poor infrastructure. Later, it was also revealed that another Arab party — the Joint Arab List — received more than $60 million in exchange for its “cooperation” in the Knesset.
Some Israelis perceived this as bribing the Arab parliamentarians in order to keep the coalition intact. Others saw the main reason for the dire security situation and the wave of terrorist activity in these actions.
Not an Easy Fight
However, Bushinsky believes that Netanyahu’s comeback will not be easy, and his success will largely depend on who will agree to join his coalition.
For now, there are not so many buyers. Current PM Yair Lapid holds a grudge against Netanyahu and is unlikely to give up his seat. The head of Yisrael Beitenu Party also has bad blood with the former premier, as do many other politicians.
Yet, Bushinsky explained that it is not a hopeless case.
“[The head of the Blue and White party] Benny Gantz didn’t rule out that he would sit with Netanyahu. Yamina under [Interior Minister Ayelet] Shaked might do that as well, although we don’t know how strong her party will be”.
“One thing is for sure: Netanyahu is preparing an aggressive campaign,” he informed.
The focus of Netanyahu’s campaign will reportedly be on highlighting the tendencies of Lapid to tilt towards the liberals. Netanyahu is due to emphasize that Bennett was in a coalition with Raam that purportedly supports terrorists.
Bibi is also expected to allege that his main challenger would divide Jerusalem and make painful concessions to the Palestinians. Netanyahu, on the other hand, will present himself as a defender of Israel and as Mr. Security.
“This is Netanyahu’s comfort zone. By conducting a harsh and aggressive campaign, Netanyahu will push the masses out to the ballots and this will increase his chances,” said Bushinsky.
“At the same time, if he leads an aggressive campaign against Arabs, it might push them into the ballots too and that might not be in favor of Netanyahu,” he added.
In any case, Netanyahu is prepared for a fight.
His team is saying that he will be touring Israel and won’t leave any stone unturned.
He knows that this might be his last change to forge a coalition.
“If he fails, members of the Likud might start thinking that he needs to be replaced so that their party could enter a coalition and establish a government. They might want to give somebody else a chance,” summed up Bushinsky.