“We’re asking for change,” Ben Gerville said late Tuesday, after preliminary results showed that the party known as religious Zionism, which his party shares with Smotrich, gained about 15 seats, making it the center of the Knesset parliament. the third largest party. .
“We demand that those who are loyal to Israel be distinguished from those with whom we have absolutely no problems and those who are destroying our precious country,” he told a predominantly young religious group, dancing to thumping chamber music , at the same time in “Oh-ah! Who is that? The next Prime Minister!” and “Death of a terrorist!”
Israel election: A far-right politician closer to power
As the breadth of his victory became clear on Tuesday night, Netanyahu told his cheering supporters, “This country wants to restore the national pride that has been taken from us.”
By Wednesday afternoon, with more than 85 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu’s return to power was all but certain. Projections from Israel’s three major TV news channels put Netanyahu’s bloc with 62 to 65 seats, enough to secure a parliamentary majority in the 120-seat parliament.
The bloc led by caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, is expected to gain about 50 seats, and Lapid began preparations for the transfer of power on Wednesday.
A Netanyahu-led government that merges far-right religious Zionism with ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism will become the most religious and right-wing government in Israeli history.
“The extreme right is here to stay, and I think it’s the third-largest party in the Knesset, a sign of concern for all those who support democracy,” said Geil Talhir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Critics fear the new government will implement legislation that further undermines Israel’s embattled democracy. Last month, Religious Zionism released a judicial reform proposal called the Law and Justice Plan that could undo Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial. For years, Netanyahu has falsely claimed that the proceedings were a “witch hunt” orchestrated by the Israeli left.
More broadly, the changes could deepen state corruption, give politicians more sway over judicial appointments and complicate efforts by the Supreme Court, seen as one of Israel’s last bastions of liberal democracy, to overturn laws that violate human rights.
Pollster Dahlia Scheindlin said the two issues driving the surge on the right were “the legal system as a deep state theme” and the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past decade.
Netanyahu and his allies have sought to sow distrust in the justice system and the attorney general. “He wants the public to see [the judiciary] It’s fake, politicized, vindictive, conspiratorial,” Scheindlin said
The election also reflected an increasingly hardened view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The surge in Palestinian attacks since the spring has fueled calls for a crackdown on Palestinians and a let-up on Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Escalating Israeli attacks in the West Bank have put 2022 on track to be the deadliest year for Palestinians there since the United Nations began keeping records in 2005.
After Israel’s election, it’s the Palestinians who need to vote
Ben Gvir is rooted in the blatantly racist Kach Party, founded by radical American rabbi Meir Kahane and banned in Israel. He built his legal career defending violent Jewish settlers and was prosecuted numerous times for inciting violence himself. A picture of Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslim worshippers in the 1994 Hebron mosque massacre, hung in his living room.
Supporters told the Washington Post on Tuesday that they voted for Ben Gerville because he supports the formal annexation of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and advocates killing rather than jailing alleged Palestinian militants.
Ben Gvir has asked to be appointed Minister of Public Security, a position that oversees the police. Opponents, including some members of Israel’s security establishment, have warned that such a move would be dangerous for Israel, raising the prospect of a major escalation with the Palestinians.
The National Unity Party, led by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, said before the election that, as head of public safety, Bengueville would “set fire on the country from within”.
Turnout in the election was Israel’s fifth in less than four years at 71.3 percent, according to Israel’s Central Election Commission. Despite widespread fatigue, Israelis’ turnout was about four percentage points higher than last year.
A final tally, not expected until Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, could push Israel’s small party over the electoral threshold and complicate Netanyahu’s path to power, although such an outcome seems unlikely.
Rapid’s campaign has relied on gaining support from smaller parties, a gamble that appears to have not paid off. The left-wing Labour party barely passed the four-seat threshold, while Merets, another left-wing party, as well as the Arab party Ballard remained below that figure.
The turnout of Palestinian citizens of Israel, which typically turn out lower than that of Israeli Jews, is closely watched as a potentially decisive factor in the election. Israel has about 2 million Palestinian citizens, many of whom are descendants of families who stayed in Israel after the founding of the state in 1948, when many Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes.
In last year’s elections, the Islamist Ram party joined Israel’s ruling coalition, a first for an Arab party. But ahead of the election, Palestinian voters expressed frustration with Arab politicians and the Jewish-dominated political system, which they said marginalized them.
Palestinian Israelis divided and disillusioned as elections loom
The last-minute push by politicians and Palestinian groups to vote appears to have paid off — with Arab citizens turning out an estimated 54 percent, according to an analysis by the aChord Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A 10% increase from the last election.
But a divided Palestinian political scene means Arab parties could end up with fewer seats than last year. The nationalist Ballard party broke off the joint list, attracting voters who were reluctant to work with Jewish parties.
Lucy Zumot, a 69-year-old Palestinian-Israeli citizen, voted for Ballard because she thought party leader Sami Abu Shahadeh “said the right things” including “we are in occupation” , we will never forget it”.
Zumot, speaking at a polling station in East Jerusalem on Tuesday, said she wanted the government to “give me all the rights like the Jews and stop the fighting.”
Talhir said Ballard’s strong showing on Tuesday showed his support was growing, especially among young Arab voters. However, that support has yet to translate into enough votes to cross the threshold.
Meanwhile, the 5.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have had no say in the process, even as Israel’s new right-wing government has vowed to tighten the evils of the occupation.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtaye said on Wednesday that the rise of the far right was “a natural consequence of the growing extremism and racism in Israeli society, which our people have been suffering from for years.”
In East Jerusalem, many Palestinians have special residency status that allows them to live in Israel but not to vote.
They include Mohammed Sarahne, 35, who works in a dessert shop in the Arab-Jewish city of Ramla in central Israel.
“We must have Arab representation in parliament,” he said. “I live with [Israeli citizens], in the same state. I should be able to vote. “
Rubin reported from Tel Aviv. Sufian Taha of Bethlehem contributed to this report.