Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, faces his toughest political battle for survival in years, as the country holds unprecedented repeat elections Tuesday.
This is the second time Israelis are going to the polls in less than six months. Netanyahu, 69, forced the do-over in a last-minute move, just weeks after April elections, because he secured a narrow win but failed to build a parliament majority.
The results of Tuesday’s elections may be just as inconclusive, casting a cloud on Netanyahu’s political future and potentially prompting yet another round of elections.
The Israeli leader risks losing not just the prime minister post, which he has held for more than a decade since 2009, after his first premiership, from 1996 to 1999. He faces possible indictments in three corruption cases. If he wins reelection, he is expected to take steps in parliament to ensure his immunity from prosecution and from a possible prison sentence. To do so, he must first beat a centrist party of former army generals he tied with in the last elections.
It is a complex contest and a crowded field: Nearly 6 million voters have to pick one of 30 lists of candidates representing many different parties or groups of parties. No more than 10 lists are expected to earn enough votes to win seats in the Knesset, Israel’s legislature.
In the April 9 vote, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party tied with the centrist Blue and White alliance, each winning 35 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Right-wing parties allied with Netanyahu got the most votes, so he had the first chance to form a coalition.
To complete a coalition, he needed to include former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s secular right-wing party, which is traditionally associated with Russian-speaking voters. But at the eleventh hour, Lieberman demanded Netanyahu promise to make it harder for Orthodox Jewish men to avoid mandatory military service. Netanyahu needed ultra-Orthodox parties to secure a majority and did not agree.
CLICK HERE FOR THE ENTIRE STORY