For Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, this year should have been the best of his political career as he’s managed what no other Israeli prime minister could – four peace deals and counting.
Under Netanyahu’s leadership and America’s nudge, Arab nations are normalising ties with Israel but foreign policy wins do not always translate into domestic political gains and so Netanyahu will have to fight again to retain his chair.
Israel is bracing for its fourth election in two years. The unity government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz has crumbled after the two sides failed to pass an annual budget as Israel’s parliament the Knesset was dissolved on Tuesday.
The next election is in March and Netanyahu remains the favourite, however, he faces challenging days ahead.
The Speaker of the Knesset announced that Israel will have another election. The first three elections were inconclusive but the pandemic forced Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to join hands and a rare government of national unity was formed but it didn’t last even nine months.
“I must say that unfortunately we were unable to find enough common ground to prevent another round of elections and enable the 23rd Knesset and its members to exercise the mandate given us,” Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, said.
“We are all going to face a difficult election campaign, and I call on each and every one of us, and on each and every Israeli citizen to refrain from exacerbating tensions and to do everything possible so that the election campaign is conducted and concludes in an orderly manner and without displays of violence,” the Speaker added.
After the deadline to pass the Budget expired, the leaders were quick to switch to campaign mode with each side blaming the other for the crisis as Netanyahu fired the first shot. However, among the people, the frustration is palpable. They blame the leaders for failing to deliver a functioning government with the pandemic still raging Israelis say an election is the last thing they need right now.
“I think the early election is very bad for Israel and in general it’s a very frustrating situation that we got ourselves into. The political standstill for the past few years is very very bad in general and our leadership is not doing what it’s supposed to do which is to take care of Israeli citizens and the situation is very very very sad,” Mickie Reshef, 32-year-old project manager, said.
“Well, naturally, a fourth election in less than two years isn’t what the economy needs right now, isn’t what the country needs, isn’t what the people needs, in the middle of the pandemic – it’s not over yet – we have started with the vaccines but a fourth election isn’t good for anybody I think,” Yazid Ershied, 22-year-old lawyer says.
Netanyahu is fighting to retain the prime minister’s office for the sixth term. He faces another rival this time – Gideon Saar, a defector from Netanyahu’s Likud party. Saar is an experienced hand. He has served as Israel’s education and interior minister.
Now, the Likud rebel wants to eat into Netanyahu’s support base. An opinion poll shows Saar drawing even with Netanyahu with Benny Gantz falling behind.
Political competition is not Netanyahu’s only problem, public outrage is also a major challenge. There is anger over his response to the Wuhan virus though Israel has already begun rolling out vaccines, but the prime minister faces corruption charges.
The campaign for the next election will unfold during the hearings against Netanyahu. The court proceedings may require him to appear in the defendant’s dock several times despite the tough odds, Netanyahu has promised to fight and with a new challenger turning this election into a three-way contest, Israel’s political crisis is set to grind on.
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