Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu gains a slight lead in final polls ahead of election

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu gains a slight lead in final polls ahead of election
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TEL AVIV—Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a slim lead over his rivals in Israel’s leadership race, latest polls ahead of Tuesday’s election schedule, but a deadlock in the fifth vote in three years is also a result probable.

Following the collapse of the government in the third summer, Israelis must decide between a record stint as prime minister for Mr. Netanyahu, or return to the singular and unwieldy coalition of left, center, right and Arab parties that defeated him in 2021. .

Friday’s polls, the last that can be released under Israeli law, gave Mr. Netanyahu a slight edge over his main rival, Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Neither party is expected to win an outright majority, but Messrs. Netanyahu and Lapid have allies with whom they would be expected to form a governing coalition.

Mister. Netanyahu’s Likud party was projected to win 30 seats, according to the Israel Hayom news organization poll. His bloc of right-wing and religious allies was projected to win 61 seats in total, enough for a majority of Israel’s 120-seat parliament.

Mister. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party was projected to win 25 seats in the same poll, with his anti-Netanyahu bloc taking 59 seats.

However, another poll on Friday by the Israeli daily Maariv showed Netanyahu and his rivals deadlocked with 60 seats each.

Israel’s channels 11, 12 and 13 also showed a 60-60 tie between the two camps in polls released on Friday night.

Current Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s disparate coalition is united only in its opposition to Mr. Netanyahu.


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Friday’s polls broadly aligned with other recent polls that showed Netanyahu and his supporters gaining a slim majority or falling short.

With the camps head-to-head, the election is likely to come down to which side can best increase their voter turnout. Mister. Netanyahu has the upper hand, political analysts say, because all four parties in his bloc are scheduled to comfortably win 3.25% of the vote, a threshold for seats in parliament. The votes of the parties that obtain less than 3.25% are discarded.

Three parties from the anti-Netanyahu bloc hover near that political danger zone, according to the Israel Hayom poll. If any of them do not make it to Parliament, Mr. Netanyahu’s bloc would surely get a majority.

If Messrs. Lapid or Netanyahu manage to form a coalition, their government is likely to be fragile. Any legislator would have leverage to overthrow the government if their demands were not met.

Mister. Netanyahu held the country’s highest seat from 2009 until last year, when his opponents joined forces to create a narrow 61-seat coalition. That was the fourth election in a two-year period of political uncertainty initiated by Mr. Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges in 2019 and the flaws of his thin governing coalition.

Mister. Lapid’s alliance is united only in his opposition to Mr. Netanyahu, whom most coalition members believed should not be allowed to run the country while he stands trial on corruption charges. Mister. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Mister. Netanyahu has campaigned against the latest government, the first in Israel’s history to include an independent Arab party, saying it included members sympathetic to the terrorists. The coalition fell apart in less than a year as members clashed over policies related to West Bank settlements, Palestinians, and issues of religion and state.

Mister. Netanyahu was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, holding the post from 2009 until last year.


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Even if there are 61 lawmakers who oppose Netanyahu after the election, Mr. Lapid would still struggle to form a coalition. He would have to rely on support from Arab parties, but his allies say they would refuse to sit down with the alliance because of the Palestinian nationalist character of those parties.

Mister. Netanyahu’s bloc is united; he is their undisputed leader and largely shares the same ideology. In a government with a narrow majority, Mr. Netanyahu would be flanked by The co-director of religious Zionism Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right lawmaker whose party wins 15 seats in the Israel Hayom poll and 14 in the Maariv poll. Mister. Ben-Gvir has been pressured into using deadly force against palestinians who use violence during protests, and advocated the deportation of people who seek to undermine the Jewish character of Israel.

In the event of a deadlock, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz could be the biggest winner. His National Unity party, now a mix of right-wing and centrist lawmakers, including some high-level defectors from the Likud party, is slated to receive 11 or 12 seats, according to Israel Hayom and Maariv polls, respectively.

Mister. Gantz has positioned himself as the only candidate who can bridge the gap between Mr. Netanyahu and his rivals. In the event of a deadlock, he could accept an offer from Mr. Netanyahu to go first in a rotating government, or continue as defense minister in Mr. Lapid’s transitional government, as the country prepares for a sixth round of elections. elections.

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