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Israel’s Election Two Weeks Away: If Not Netanyahu, Who?

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s three-week celebration of the Fall Feasts comes to an end Monday night, and with it begins a political sprint before voters return to the polls November 1st for a fifth election in less than four years. Anyone looking for a favorite to be the next prime minister would have to look first to Benjamin Netanyahu.

The longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, Netanyahu’s Likud Party finished first in the last election by a large margin in May of 2021, but he was unable to form a government after party leaders across the political spectrum mobilized to keep him out, instead choosing conservative Naftali Bennett in a power-sharing deal with the current Prime Minister, Yair Lapid.

Their government dissolved after a little more than one year, and Netanyahu’s party again leads in the polls over Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party.

If you’re following the elections, the important number to remember is 61. That number represents a majority in Israel’s 120-member Knesset. Under the parliamentary system, Israelis aren’t voting for a candidate for prime minister, they’re voting for a party.

Current polls show Netanyahu’s party could win 30-35 seats, which means they need to find coalition partners to put them at or above 61.

Many of the religious parties who have been frozen out of government in the past 16 months are likely to support Netanyahu, and with their numbers growing, they could help him get to 61.

If not, Lapid would probably be the only other candidate who could be tasked by Israel’s president with forming a government.

However, Lapid would need the support of Arab parties which don’t recognize the state of Israel, and from the far left and center-left parties.  That would create another shaky coalition much like the one that fell apart this summer.

One more factor to consider is that so many pollsters around the world have been so wrong about so many elections in the past two years that they may be giving an inaccurate picture of the Israeli voters’ mood. Leaders of the 14 or so Israeli parties with a realistic shot at being part of the next Knesset have a short time left to make their case before the citizens cast their ballots.

A programing note:  Watch Gordon Robertson's interview with Benjamin Netanyahu on the 700 Club, Tuesday October 18.

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About The Author


John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN New since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.