10:29 GMT27 January 2021
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    Although Israeli elections can still be averted, the country's media believes the gaps between Netanyahu and his coalition partner Gantz are far too wide to bridge. And that means that Israelis will end up casting their ballots once again, some time between March and June 2021.

    The smell of elections is in the air again as Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a bill last Wednesday that aimed at dissolving the current legislature.

    The bill still requires two more readings before it becomes a law, a process which is likely to take two to three weeks. Afterwards the Knesset will dissolve itself, prompting another national vote, the fourth in less than two years.

    But even if the passing of the bill is averted at the last minute, going to the polls is still inevitable, believe the Israeli media, simply because cracks in the coalition are far too deep and gaps between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister Benny Gantz are far too wide.

    Aside from the fact that the two cannot agree on the way Israel should be handling the coronavirus, they are also at odds when it comes to the country's budget. The problem is that the clock is ticking and if the issue is not resolved by December 23, the Knesset will dissolve itself automatically, subjecting the country to another round of pricey elections.

    Abundance of Players

    It is not yet clear how many parties will take part in that vote, which is due to take place at some time between March to June. In its April 2019 elections, Israel registered 47 parties and chances are high that this time, the number of contenders participating will be equally high.

    Talks about new parties that will join the race have already started popping up. On Friday, it was announced that Israel will soon see the formation of a new party called "the Professionals" that will unite experts, economists and doctors, who will offer a different approach to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis that it ushered in.

    The former head of Haifa municipality, a city in the north of the country which boasts a diverse population, is also mulling over a potential run and is set to launch a party called "Shahar" that will feature Jews and Arabs alike and will present an alternative to the current left-wing lists, including Meretz and the Joint Arab List.

    Several high-profile figures are also set to join the race, but it is not yet clear whether they will form their own parties or prefer to integrate into the existing ones. Such is the case with Gadi Eisenkot, Israel's former chief of staff and Amos Yadlin, a former IDF pilot known for his participation in the bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.

    Lack of clarity is also seen in the existing parties and blocks. Gantz and his former partner Yair Lapid, who currently heads the opposition, might forge a partnership, putting aside their previous feud over cooperation with Netanyahu. 

    Alternatively, the largest party of the opposition "Yesh Atid-Telem" is likely to split in the upcoming vote, a move that will definitely hurt the number of seats they will get in the parliament. 

    A similar destiny awaits the Joint Arab List that united four Arab parties and that became the opposition's second-largest bloc, if they end up splitting, following disagreements on cooperation with Netanyahu.

    Netanyahu's Chances for Re-Election

    Meanwhile, the PM's party seems to be secure and stable. Although the Likud might end up going to the primaries, the distribution of power is unlikely to change there, simply because Netanyahu is popular among his party members and can rely on their support.. 

    For him to continue to lead the country, however, he will need the support of the masses, which he currently lacks.

    Even though a recent poll suggested that Likud is set to get 30 out of 120 seats in the country's parliament, this number is relatively low compared to his achievement in March, when he received 36 spots at the Knesset.

    Popular support for the PM has declined in the past couple of years following his corruption charges and his alleged mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis that followed.

    Netanyahu is struggling to flip this tendency but as the vaccines of leading pharmaceutical companies are set to make their way to Israel in the beginning of 2021, the flames of dissatisfaction might vanish and so will the chances of the opposition to see Netanyahu leave office.

    coalition, Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli elections, election, Israel
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