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Israeli-Russian vote decisive for next elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs at least one Knesset seat from the Israeli-Russian population to assemble a majority coalition after the September elections.
Israelis who immigrated from Russia wait in line at a polling station in the coastal city of Ashkelon December 2, 2007. Tens of thousands of Russian nationals living in Israel are expected to cast their ballots on Sunday for Russia's parliamentary election.  REUTERS/Amir Cohen (ISRAEL) - GM1DWSMXBJAA

With three months to go until Israel heads to the polls to elect the 22nd Knesset on Sept. 17, the parties have barely started their campaigns. Still, the knives are already drawn. Three days before the Knesset dissolved itself on May 27, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded that Avigdor Liberman has no plans to join his next government, so he sent a message to the rest of his Likud faction: “It’s free-fire season on Liberman.”

In the last election campaign, the Likud kept a safe distance from Yisrael Beitenu’s territory. This time, the situation is very different. About a week ago, Netanyahu appointed Likud Central Committee member Attorney Ariel Bulshtein as his “special adviser on Russian immigrants.” Liberman derided the appointment, claiming that “Netanyahu is in a state of hysteria from all the pressure.” Liberman also noted that polls show his party growing to as many as 10 seats, compared with the five garnered at the April elections.

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