20:08 GMT13 April 2021
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    The Israeli Prime Minister's Likud party has gained popularity in recent media polls, which project it is poised to get 30 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset. But to keep his position, Netanyahu will need to secure support from 31 more members of parliament, something that he is still struggling with.

    Four days before Israel goes to the polls, the heads of parties are touring the country in a bid to secure votes, as reports have emerged that around 400,000 out of nearly five million eligible voters are still undecided.

    The parties are trying to help voters make up their mind. Each is trying to capitalise on its own achievements.

    The bloc that's vowing to replace Prime Minister Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu has underlined its commitments to ousting the longest-serving prime minister.

    A labourer hangs a Likud party election campaign banner depicting party leader Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ahead of a March 23 ballot, in Jerusalem March 10, 2021
    © REUTERS / AMMAR AWAD
    A labourer hangs a Likud party election campaign banner depicting party leader Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ahead of a March 23 ballot, in Jerusalem March 10, 2021

    Netanyahu's Likud party is putting the emphasis on its "back to life" campaign, stressing that it was the PM who brought Israel millions of COVID-19 vaccines that reduced the infection rates and that helped to return the country's social and economic life to normal.

    Reasons for Optimism

    For now, Netanyahu has a reason to be optimistic. A recent poll conducted by Israel's Channel 12 predicts his party would get 30 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. 

    Inner surveys conducted by Netanyahu's Likud party project they will get up to 35 seats at the chamber but the question still remains if that number will be enough to secure more time in office for the current prime minister.

    The real battle will kick off in Israel after the official results are announced, a process that might take several days. It will be then that the parties will need to recommend one name to Israel's president expressing their confidence in that person's ability to steer the country through the still-raging economic crisis.

    The Puzzle of Government Formation

    The way it stands now, Netanyahu, with his 30 seats, will manage to obtain 19 more signatures through his "natural allies" or a bloc of conservative parties, and that means that he will be lacking 12 more votes that could allow him to retain his position as PM.

    For Netanyahu, the only way to reach the magic number of 61 seats in parliament would be through the cooperation with Yamina, another conservative party headed by the former minister of defence, Naftali Bennett.

    With 10 seats already, it will be Yamina that will determine the outcome of the national polls that take place this month for the fourth time in under two years.

    Bennett has his own score to settle with Netanyahu. Reportedly, he still holds a grudge against Bibi for spreading rumours about his wife and for ditching his party in the previous round of general elections, opting to go with the Blue and White List of Benny Gantz.

    Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, who is also the  leader of the religious  Jewish Home party, arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018
    © AP Photo / Jim Hollander
    Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, who is also the leader of the religious Jewish Home party, arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018

    But although Bennett might be emotional, he is also pragmatic. Previously, number 2 in the party, Ayelet Shaked, said that she had no intention to isolate "one million Likud voters," suggesting that she and Yamina would be prepared to sit down under Netanyahu in case he secures enough seats.

    Bennett himself vowed he would do everything in his power to prevent a fifth round of elections and he also stated that he had "no obsession" with Netanyahu, meaning he didn't negate the possibility of serving as a minister under the current premier. 

    Now, it is only a matter of the price that Netanyahu will be willing to pay if he does end up securing enough seats. It is not clear what post Bennett will be demanding. It might be the position of an alternate Prime Minister, just as it was the case with Benny Gantz. But he may very well settle with the role of defence minister, something that he has successfully done before. 

    Earlier this week, Netanyahu promised that Bennett would occupy a leading ministerial position in his government if he chooses to recommend him for the post of the premier after the elections.

    And if that is the case, only one seat separates Netanyahu from the 61 he needs to control the legislature.

    Some Israeli analysts predict that Netanyahu is counting on the conservative Arab party of Raam to give the PM that backing. But doubts run high as to whether the Ultra-Orthodox bloc that has gone hand-in-hand with the premier will be able to swallow that pill and agree to that partnership.

    And that leaves Netanyahu with only one hope -- defectors from the opposition. In the past general polls he managed to pull that trick, stealing a member of the Blue and White party. Now he is promising to do that again. The coming weeks will show whether he will stick to his promises.

    Tags:
    Israel, election, Benjamin Netanyahu
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