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    A man walks by an election campaign billboard showing Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud party leader, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, April 7, 2019

    Netanyahu vs. Gantz Election Reveals ‘Just How Far Right’ Israel Has Gone

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    On April 9, Israelis will go to the polls and elect their 21st Knesset, or parliament. Nicole Roussell, Sputnik News analyst, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Monday to discuss how the vote will bring an an end to the race that has pitted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

    "Yes, this [election] is definitely about Netanyahu," Roussell told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    ​"Even with the corruption scandal that rocked his campaign a couple of months ago, it's still really surprising just how well he's doing in the polls. The last polls that were allowed to come out were last Friday, and he and Blue and White are just neck and neck. It's really going to be up in the air what happens tomorrow, and Blue and White, which is his [Netanyahu's] main opponent, has really run this as: ‘Do you want Netanyahu, or do you want someone else?'" Roussell told Sputnik. 

    Netanyahu has been accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust by Israeli police. According to investigators, the prime minister is suspected of promoting the interests of telecommunications company Bezeq and its majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for favorable coverage on the the Walla! news website, owned by Bezeq, Sputnik previously reported.

    According to Roussell, the Blue and White party, led by popular former Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, hasn't even made their stance regarding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict clear.

    "Netanyahu has been so polarizing, he has been so definitive in his policy positions, that there is no reason to say what they're for," Kiriakou noted.

    Over the weekend, Netanyahu announced that he will annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, if he is re-elected, hoping to gain support from his right-wing political base. However, such a move would eliminate the chances of establishing a two-state solution with Palestine.

    "I will give sovereignty, but I don't differentiate between the settlement blocs and the isolated settlements, because from my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians… if we learned anything, it is that when we abandon territories, Islamic extremism emerges immediately and slaughters us, and I won't give them the heart of the state of Israel," Netanyahu, who is part of the center-right to right-wing Likud political party, said Friday.

    However, the Blue and White party has not condemned Netanyahu's statement, despite it being a violation of international law.

    "No, they're not saying that [condemning Netanyahu's move] at all, and when asked by reporters, Blue and White and Benny Gantz are saying, ‘no comment, no comment.' That's completely wild, right? That's a really clear way that you could differentiate yourself from Netanyahu, but on the other hand, I think they know how far right the Israeli electorate is," Roussell explained. 

    "I did want to read a quote from the Labor Party, which is supposed to be the center-left party [in Israel] that theoretically Blue and White was maybe going to build a coalition with," Roussell continued.

    "After Netanyahu made this announcement on Friday and Gantz didn't reply, Labor said, ‘Whoever runs away from a two-state solution will get a single state with an Arab majority and the end of the Zionist vision. The Labor Party is the only party committed to the vision of two states for two peoples and for maintaining the Jewish majority.' That's a far-right thing to say. It's extremely pro-Zionist, extremely pro exclusivity, extremely anti-Arab, but it's still a two-state idea, and the Blue and White party won't even come out to say that. To me, it really represents just how far right the country has gone," Roussell explained. 

    On Sunday, Netanyahu held an emergency meeting in Jerusalem ahead of Tuesday's election, claiming that the right-wing government is in danger of not securing a majority coalition. In the 120-seat Knesset, at least 61 seats are required for a majority.

    "I do not have 61 recommendations, and Gantz also leads in recent polls. In this situation they will be put on track toward a government, and then they will go to Labor and Meretz, and we will have a leftist government," the prime minister reiterated in an interview with Channel 12 Monday morning, the Times of Israel reported, despite the fact that final polls released before the weekend showed Netanyahu's right-wing coalition leading the race, with the Blue and White bloc trailing close behind.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    right-wing, corruption scandal, Likud Party, election, Benjamin Netanyahu, United States
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