Israeli election seen as referendum on divisive Netanyahu Moderna Pfizer Israeli White House Naftali Bennett


Israelis vote Tuesday in their fourth parliamentary election in just two years. Once again, the race boils down to a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister for the past 12 years, hopes voters will reward him for leading the country’s successful coronavirus vaccine rollout and his diplomatic outreach to the Arab world. His challengers have highlighted his earlier missteps in the coronavirus strategy, his reliance on divisive religious and ultra-nationalist allies and his ongoing corruption trial.

Over the years, Netanyahu has developed a reputation as a political magician and master manipulator capable of surviving any crisis. With witnesses set to take the stand against him next month, Netanyahu is hoping for another miracle that could deliver a friendlier parliament willing to grant him immunity or freeze his trial. Opponents portray him as a serial liar who has caused two years of political paralysis by putting his political survival and legal troubles ahead of the country’s interests.

Opinion polls forecast an extremely tight race, raising the possibility of continued deadlock and even an unprecedented fifth consecutive election. Netanyahu appears to hold a slight advantage because of the intricacies of Israel’s political system.

In Israel, people vote for parties, not individual candidates. Netanyahu’s Likud is again poised to emerge as the largest individual party. But since no party has ever won a 61-seat parliamentary majority on its own, political alliances must be formed to create a governing coalition. If the opinion polls prove accurate, Netanyahu would have a clearer path to building a government than the array of rivals that have little in common beyond their animosity toward him.


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