15:36 GMT08 April 2020
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    On 2 March, Israel is going to hold its third general election in less than a year after no party managed to win a majority or form a coalition government in the two previous votes.

    Foreign affairs director at the Israeli Likud party, Eli Hazan, reflects on the party's strategy ahead of the elections and explains why criminal charges against Netanyahu and Likud are unlikely to bring serious damage to the prime minister.    

    Sputnik: According to the recent polls, Likud is set to become the largest political faction in the Knesset with 33 seats, just one spot more than the 32 seats that the Blue and White party are expected to gain. How likely is it that these elections can overthrow the current deadlock in Israeli politics? What're the tactics to woo voters?

    Eli Hazan: First of all, don’t believe the polls in Israel. They are inaccurate in almost every election campaign, and I expect this time it’s not going to be any different in the sense that you cannot know exactly how many votes each party will get. Regarding the deadlock, our main concern, the main thing that we are trying to do is to bring get the 250,000 people to vote that Likud needs, that didn’t come to vote during last elections. If they’re coming to vote, we’ll be very close to 61 seats out of the 120 that we need in the Knesset, 61 seats for the right bloc. That’s our main target, that’s what we are doing. We encourage people to go voting in order to prevent the fourth election, while Benny Gantz, the leader of our rivals from the opposition, the Blue and White, has already announced that he is willing for the fourth election. We say we don’t need this anymore, it’s a waste of money; so it comes from there.

    Sputnik: The Blue and White Party urged for the investigation to be launched against PM Netanyahu and the Likud Party for violating a party financing law. How much of damage can this be for Mr Netanyahu and his party, bearing in mind the ongoing corruption charges against the Prime Minister?

    Eli Hazan: First of all, Netanyahu is under political prosecution. Let me remind you that Janez Jansa, who is a Slovenian politician, who’s going to be Prime Minister next week in Slovenia, even was in prison after a trial where he was charged with corruption, and then he was found not guilty. There’s the same story with Netanyahu, it’s just happening in Israel. It’s more or less the following: you’re either pro-Bibi, or you’re against Bibi; there’s nothing in the middle. What we’re trying to do is encourage people who are pro-Bibi and know that he is under political prosecution to go to vote.

    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to Likud party election campaign banners, one depicting party leader Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the other depicting Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White party and Ahmad Tibi, co-leader of the Joint List, an Arab party, in Jerusalem February 20, 2020
    © REUTERS / AMMAR AWAD
    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to Likud party election campaign banners, one depicting party leader Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the other depicting Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White party and Ahmad Tibi, co-leader of the Joint List, an Arab party, in Jerusalem February 20, 2020

    Sputnik: What are the main challenges Likud is facing now on the foreign front?

    Eli Hazan: We are trying to promote Donald Trump’s deal of the century; we are in favour of it. It is very important as a peace plan. And, of course, with Iran on the table, everyone in the world is speaking about it, but for us, Iran is still a challenge. That is the most important thing. I would say that we can take both of them, and this is our international concern.

    Sputnik: Netanyahu has promised to start annexing settlements and other West Bank areas unilaterally if he wins a majority. What kind of reaction do you expect on both the domestic arena and from the international community?

    Eli Hazan: First of all, if we win 61 seats for the right bloc, we are going to annex according to the deal of the century, which specifically speaks about it. As for the international community, it’s very simple: as long as the Americans are supporting Israel, it would be much easier for us to do it. And we hope to convince the international community that this is necessary; we are going to annex territories with a Jewish majority; we are not going to annex Palestinians. We don’t want to annex Palestinians, they have the Palestinian Authority; we are going to leave it as such.

    Tags:
    Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli elections, Israel
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