Andrey Yashlavsky & Polina Konoplyanko
According to the results of the vote count in Israel’s national elections held on Tuesday, the party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-right allies are leading. In this way, the right seems to be able to secure the majority in the Knesset necessary to form a government.
If the preliminary data were correct, then Israel was potentially moving closer to its most right-wing government, according to Western media. The initial election results point to an ongoing shift to the right in the Israeli electorate.
“We are on the cusp of a very big victory,” Netanyahu, 73, told his supporters gathered in Jerusalem early Wednesday morning. “I will create a nationalist government that will take care of all the citizens of Israel without any exceptions.”
“Until the last ballot is counted, nothing is over and final,” Netanyahu’s main opponent Yair Lapid is not going to give up easily on his part, promising his supporters that he will continue to fight for “Israel to be Jewish and democratic, liberal and progressive state.
The counting of votes continued all night, and by Wednesday morning almost 80% of the ballots had been counted. And if the final results confirm projections that Netanyahu and his allies will win the 61 parliamentary seats they need to form a government, then Israel’s protracted political crisis could come to an end. However, the Associated Press notes, the country will still remain divided, as before.
Recall that the November 1 elections were already the fifth in Israel in less than four years. And the central figure in them (as before) was Netanyahu, or rather, the question of whether he is capable of governing the country. On trial on a string of corruption charges, the ex-premier denies his guilt and is seen by his supporters as the victim of a witch hunt. But political opponents see the leader of the right-wing Likud party as a fraud and a threat to democracy.
In any case, even if Netanyahu and his allies win the coveted majority in the Knesset, forming a coalition government may not be a quick matter, requiring lengthy negotiations.
Be that as it may, what cannot be taken away from Netanyahu is the experience of leading the government. He was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, running the country for 12 consecutive years before being replaced by a ragtag coalition led by the centrist Yair Lapid, now acting prime minister. But the coalition formed by Lapid was so fragile that it collapsed after only a year in power due to ideological and other differences.
The hopes of those who believed that the votes of the Palestinian citizens of Israel (and they make up 20% of the country’s population) would help block Netanyahu’s return to power did not come true in the last elections.
A kind of sensation of the elections was the successful performance of the far-right association “Religious Zionism” Itamar Ben-Gvir, who became the third largest parliamentary party. Ben-Gvir became one of the most popular politicians in Israel thanks to his frequent appearances in the media. He actively advocates for settlements, calls Arab MPs “terrorists”, called for the deportation of “disloyal” Palestinian Israelis, and recently even brandished a gun in the Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem, urging police to shoot at stone-throwing Palestinians. Al-Jazeera described the Ben-Gvir-led party as “anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-Palestinian, homophobic” and is seen as Netanyahu’s main partner in the right-wing coalition.
Of course, the results of the elections in Israel will have foreign policy implications. And this concerns not only the Middle East settlement that has been stalling for many years, not only relations with regional players. The United States, for example, warned Netanyahu’s Likud party that giving “religious Zionists” a government post would harm bilateral relations, writes The Guardian.
However, Netanyahu responded to such warnings that such a choice should not depend on external forces.
They concern the results of the Israeli elections and the conflict in Ukraine. As noted, for example, by The Jerusalem Post, there are serious questions about whether the next Israeli government will be ready to supply defense technology to Kyiv. On the one hand, the newspaper notes, Netanyahu had friendly relations with Russia and China. But, on the other hand, the United States today considers these countries to be its main adversaries, “and Jerusalem had to give up some of its ties with these countries.” All this puts Israel in a difficult position, as it does not want to be a party to the Ukrainian conflict, in particular, because of the role of Russia in Syria. But in Jerusalem they do not want him to be perceived in Washington as withdrawing from helping Kyiv.
“Russia has always had stable relations with Israel, it did not follow the lead of those countries that we now consider unfriendly,” comments Alexander Krylov, professor at MGIMO. “Israel maintained the full-fledged relations that we have established since the day they were restored in 1991. Despite the fact that the internal political situation in Israel was extremely unstable, nevertheless, our relations remained at the same level.
Naturally, Israel is under very serious pressure from the same United States of America, since they are still Israel’s main strategic partner in the Middle East region. But, nevertheless, the former prime ministers (both Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid) adhered to a unified position that they would not supply lethal weapons to Ukraine.
As for our relations, in principle, Israel did not close its borders. Including they remained open for our tourists, who still enjoy the right of visa-free exchange, which is preserved in accordance with the agreement signed by Russia and Israel (“Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the State of Israel on the waiver of visa requirements for mutual trips of citizens of the Russian Federation and Citizens of the State of Israel” dated March 20, 2008 – “MK”).
Netanyahu, as far as I know, he has been to Moscow more than ten times and has repeatedly met, including with the President of our country. So, I think he will remain true to the very position that he held when he was prime minister. And he held this post for quite a long time (a total of 15 years and 3 months – “MK”).
- How will the victory of the Likud led by Benjamin Netanyahu change the situation in Israel itself?
- Here, frankly, I can not say something positive. Because the political system of Israel is arranged in such a way that in any case, Netanyahu will have to seek the support of those parties that are ready to enter the government coalition. It is still too early to judge, but in any case, this coalition will be very weak and Netanyahu will at best manage to scrape together a little more than 60 votes in Parliament, and hence his political position will be rather shaky.
- Is it possible to assume that it will not be possible to “put together” a new parliament?
– Netanyahu, of course, will be able to do it. His competitors practically had no such chances. But to say that it will be a strong government – no one will undertake to declare this.