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'Netanyahu' Is the Only Real Issue in Upcoming Israeli Elections, Expert Says


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JERUSALEM, Israel - For the first time ever, Israelis will go back to the polls to vote in national elections for a second time in one year.  

Israeli voters are expressing different priorities as they plan for the September 17 national elections.  CBN News asked Jerusalemites what they thought.

"I think the security matters more than anything else, yeh, the issues like Iran, like Hamas," said Yehuda, an Israeli voter.

"The most important issue for me is to stay a Jewish State, a strong state," said Edna, another Israeli voter. 

According to political scientist Dr. Emmanuel Navon, from The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, however, there's only one real issue: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Netanyahu.  That is the topic of the election, basically. That is what Blue and White is all about -- being against Netanyahu. Likud is about support (of) Netanyahu. And that's also why we are having an early election," Navon told CBN News

Israelis will have more than 30 political parties and lists to choose from next week.  The parties will be competing for 120 Knesset seats.  The party winning the most seats will likely be asked to form the next government.  And that's where it gets complicated.

According to opinion polls, Netanyahu's Likud party is running even with the liberal Blue and White party led by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.  That means all eyes are on another player: Avigdor Liberman of the Israel Beiteinu party as a potential kingmaker.

"Neither the Likud nor Blue and White have a coalition.  In other words it's very clear from most polls that Netanyahu will not have a rightwing coalition without Liberman and Benny Gantz will not have a center-left coalition without Liberman either," said Navon.

Liberman wants a unity government made up of elements from both Likud and Blue and White.  

Even though the polls are similar to what they were in April, Navon says there won't be a repeat.  

"In other words, we're not going to go to elections again. Forget about it.  There's no such scenario," Navon added.

In April, Netanyahu's Likud party won more seats than any other party but Netanyahu was unable to pull together a majority of Knesset members to form a coalition government.  Rather than let his opponent try, the Knesset dissolved itself and called for new elections.  

Over the summer Netanyahu became Israel's longest serving prime minister. Supporters credit him for the strong economy, improving relations with neighboring Arab states and helping make ties with the US stronger than ever.  

His detractors point to his legal problems and upcoming indictment on corruption charges.   Israelis are divided.

"Our government is very corrupted and I myself very (much) hate Benyamin Netanyahu," said Israeli voter Ilan, who said he'd vote for Blue and White. 

But another Israeli voter, Nofar had a different perspective.  "If all your life you went to a dentist or a car person (to) fix your car and he's doing a good job for years, why will you replace him? Right?  The same (with) Bibi.  He's doing a good job for years," she said.

So, come the elections, the world will see whether or not Israelis still believe Netanyahu is the only viable choice as leader for Israel.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism, then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91, and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the