Israelis vote in the third general election in a year: Will Netanyahu reach the magic number?

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Nikhil PandeyUpdated: Mar 02, 2020, 10:00 AM IST

File photo of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Israel is no stranger to political uncertainty. But what is happening now in Israel is unprecedented.

For the third time in a span of less than a year, Israel will be voting to elect its next prime minister. The incumbent and the longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has his task cut out.

The earlier two elections have ended in a stalemate. Netanyahu has vowed to build settlements in East Jerusalem ahead of the third round of elections in the country.

But will this gambit help Netanyahu reach the magic number?

Israel is no stranger to political uncertainty. But what is happening now in Israel is unprecedented.

Also read: Israel's Netanyahu tries to poach 'Russian vote' from old rival

For the first time in its history — Israel is holding 3 back to back general elections. And when a sitting prime minister has been indicted on serious charges of corruption.

According to opinion polls, corruption charges haven't pulled away from traditional Likud party voters. And by building settlements in east Jerusalem, Netanyahu hopes to bring in more hardline voters to his party.

What Netanyahu needs is a coalition which can form a majority in the 120 member Knesset.

"What you guys have to really do is you have to annihilate this line which is not such an easy thing to do. You have to finish annihilating. If we do it in pieces it's one thing, if we do it completely, then you have to delineate all the problems," Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Israel.

First mooted in 1995, the plan was shelved by successive Israeli governments due to international condemnation.

"Netanyahu, I will vote for Netanyahu. But I think that what Netanyahu does here is something wrong and dangerous because the Jewish people are not to decide, and the leaders of the Jewish people are not to decide the future, the limits, the borders until we get the full borders of the land of Israel as promised in the bible from god to our patriarchs," said Daniella Weiss, Israeli Orthodox settlement movement activist.

But expansionist pledges during campaigning aren't anything new for Netanyahu. In April 2019, Netanyahu had announced his intention to annex all current settlements in the occupied west bank. 

By September 2019, Netanyahu upped the ante. Promising that if he is re-elected, he would claim Israeli sovereignty over a third of the occupied west bank. And now, he has floated a campaign promise to build 3500 homes for Israeli settlers in east Jerusalem.

But the election is still neck and neck. Netanyahu has met his match in Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief turned politician. His blue and white party for the first time won more votes than the Likud. Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival. And Benny Gantz is unwilling to cede an inch.