Intel: Third time’s a charm as Netanyahu scores election win

al-monitor Confetti falls as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kisses his wife, Sara, after speaking to supporters following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's election at his Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 3, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad.

Mar 3, 2020

After three parliamentary elections within the span of a year, and though his right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc did not garner the golden 61 seats needed for an outright majority, it now seems that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue occupying his position for a further term.

Like the ever-lasting phoenix, Netanyahu offered last night his Likud party one of its greatest-ever victories, amassing four additional Knesset seats. Thus, the right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc is almost within reach of 60 seats. After 90% of the votes counted, the Likud is set to be the largest Knesset faction with 36 seats, far ahead of its top rival Blue and White, left with only 32 seats.

Why it matters: Likud leader Netanyahu’s achievement is all the more significant considering the fact that he is about to stand trial on bribe and corruption charges less than two weeks from today. His victory means public legitimacy for him to continue leading the country while appearing in court. Shortly after election results were published, several petitions were submitted to the high court against Netanyahu being tasked with composing the next government. Still, Israeli law enables the head of state to continue serving while indicted, and so chances are slim that the court would prevent Netanyahu from doing exactly that.

Netanyahu’s Likud received especially high support in the party’s bastions in the periphery, amid the weaker socio-economic sectors. Voters there identified with Netanyahu’s claim of persecution and with his claim that the legal cases against him were fabricated in order to topple him. These sentiments became strongly rooted in Israel’s southern periphery towns, to the point of overcoming their daily hardship of rocket fire from Gaza.

What’s next? Israel woke up this morning to a clearer political reality: The right wing had won; the Likud is now the largest party. Benny Gantz’ Blue and White and its project to replace Netanyahu have suffered a resounding defeat. Hence, the prospect of a fourth round of elections seems less of an option. With these results, Netanyahu is already engaged in efforts to achieve a majority, trying to convince individual Knesset members from the other side to renegade and join his ranks. He might also try his hand once again at negotiating a unity government while seeking to split Blue and White.

Netanyahu’s success in constituting a solid right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc was the main reason behind his political survival. The bloc closed ranks and remained stable despite attempts by Blue and White to divide it. In the coming days, Netanyahu will keep protecting his bloc. He had already spoken with his allies last night when the first results came in.

Know more: Read Ben Caspit’s piece on Netanyahu’s political and personal victory with this win, as well as Shlomi Eldar’s take on the bitter victory of Israel’s Arab party.

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