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    Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem, ahead of UN the Security Council discussion on Hezbollah's tunnels into Israel, on December 19, 2018

    Netanyahu Popular Among Some Voters, But People to Vote for Right-Wing – Scholar

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    Members of Israel’s Labour party go to the polls on Monday to elect the party’s Knesset slate. The latest surveys show that the party, which dominated Israeli politics during its first three decades of statehood, is likely to see modest results in April’s election.

    On Sunday, the Labour party's Chairman Avi Gabbay urged party members to go and vote. According to media reports, some 60,000 voters were eligible to cast their ballots at 84 polling stations across the country. They can choose up to 10 of the 44 candidates.

    Radio Sputnik has discussed Israel's election with Eyal Zisser, Vice Rector of Tel Aviv University and Professor for Middle Eastern Studies.

    Sputnik: What is your forecast on the outcome of these Israeli elections in April?

    Eyal Zisser: Well, it is hard to say, you know. Elections, after all, you need to wait patiently till the results will be known… will be published. But the common wisdom in Israel is that there will be very little change, because [it's said] that the right-wing coalition headed by Netanyahu will be able to maintain its power and to stay in power in Israel.

    Sputnik: And yet, you know, of course, with all of the scandals and these court cases surrounding Netanyahu and his wife, there has been a tendency to feel that perhaps this could be the end of his [political career]; we could see some kind of a shift. I know that he is very well-liked and many people don't see that there are many alternatives, but yet there seems to be some movement toward him losing popularity.

    Eyal Zisser: Well, the speculation has to do with the decision that will be made not by the electorate, not by the voters but the authorities in Israel that might decide to bring him to court.

    The election in Israel is not only about Netanyahu, like the previous election in the United States and many other places around the globe and Europe, it is about identity. So many may not vote for Netanyahu or against Netanyahu but for the party, not even the ideology but what it symbolises for the Israeli voters.

    So while I tend to think that while Netanyahu is maybe still popular among some of the voters, people will still vote for the right-wing because of this question of identity. And yes, even in the previous election, half of the voters were against him, but not in favour of a certain candidate, a specific party that could form an alternative government and that is why Netanyahu will stay in power.

    Sputnik: Do you think that it is possible that Netanyahu will be able to come out of these elections completely unscathed?

    Eyal Zisser: Yes, but it is also likely that he might win in the election but then several weeks after, he will be forced to resign. I mean there are some candidates in his own party that seek to replace him. Now they are very quiet.

    READ MORE: Netanyahu's Main Electoral Rival Calls for Abandoning Control Over Palestinians

    They support him, publicly at least. But once the Attorney General decides to bring him to court, he will be forced to resign and there will be others who will be ready to take his place, even within his own leading party, the Likud.

    Sputnik: Do you think it is possible that if he doesn't, in fact, have to go to court that he will definitely have to resign? I mean he has been able to really maintain power through a lot of other scandals and do you think the court will definitely be the deal-breaker that will force him out of office?

    Eyal Zisser: It is hard to say. I think, as always, the problem with Netanyahu is for some people he was a story of success, he was popular, but the problem with leaders who stay in power for many years; he [has been] Prime Minister for the last ten years but he started his political career and became Prime Minister for the first time in 1996. So we are speaking here about almost twenty-five years.

    Enough is enough, I mean many people got tired; it is not that they are against him but they got tired of him. But the question is, okay people are tired, but who can replace him? That is the issue here, and if the other side will show that there is an alternative. Now there is the former Chief of Staff.

    He is a general, a decorated, well-respected general and people in Israel because of the security challenges look for somebody they can rely on —here, the former Chief of Staff has a clear advantage. For the first time, people are speaking about the fact that there is some sort of alternative, but we will have to wait and see.

    Sputnik: How strong of an option is the general you were speaking of?

    Eyal Zisser: Well, Benny Gantz, the former Chief of Staff, is very popular. He came out of nowhere with no real political party behind him. And according to polls, he is already not far away from Netanyahu. And when the question of personality is raised, people even prefer him, you know, it is fifty-fifty or almost fifty-fifty.

    So there is the sense that there is some sort of alternative but this is an election campaign, we need to make sure that the candidates do not make terrible mistakes. And what people like in him is that they know very little about [him].

    READ MORE: Israel Starts Building New Wall Along Border With Gaza Strip — Prime Minister

    So he didn't speak much about his ideas. So it is very easy to like somebody you know very little about, you know nothing about scandals and popular statements. But once you become a politician then people get to know you. We will have to wait and see what will be the opinion of the public about him when we get closer to election day.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    election, Likud party, Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, United States
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