Counting has started to know the winner of Israel’s extraordinary general election but there are exit poll projections already available. It shows a tight race between Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and former military chief, Benny Gantz. The right-wing Likud party is going neck and neck with the centrist Blue and White Party according to the exit poll which has a past history of unreliability.
At a meeting earlier, Netanyahu said Israel “needs a strong, stable, Zionist government committed to Israel as a national state for the Jewish people.” “There cannot be a government that is supported by anti-Zionist Arab parties that do not believe in Israel as a Jewish democratic state,” he said. “In the next few days, we will get into negotiations to establish a Zionist government to prevent the formation of a dangerous anti-Zionist government.”
At an event for his own supporters across town, Gantz sounded optimistic while stating that the people of Israel had voted for unity. He also talked about creating a “broad unity government.” There are 29 parties in the fray and at least 10 of them are expected to cross the 3.25% threshold and win representation in the 120-seat Parliament. A number of smaller parties could hold the key to either of the leaders forming a coalition government.
The Yisrael Beiteinu founded by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is a keenly watched party in this election. He is popular among the Russian émigré community of Israel and is portraying himself as a champion of all secular Israelis. He is all for a national unity government that will keep out the ultra-orthodox religious communities. In the event of a tie, Liberman could emerge as a coalition kingmaker.
The exit polls are projecting around 10 seats for his party. Netanyahu is seeking his fifth term as Israel’s Prime Minister. The country’s longest- ever serving leader has already surpassed the record of David Ben-Gurion’s ,875 days in office in July. Netanyahu is facing corruption probes in three cases but he has been insisting that he is the target of a media-led witch-hunt. It appears that his supporters are convinced. During the campaign, he also spoke of annexing parts of the West Bank regarded as occupied Palestinian territory by most of the international community, if his party is re-elected.
Gantz’s campaign is seen as lackluster but going by the projected results his party too seems to have driven the message home. It is expected that counting to most of the seats will be completed by 7 AM Local (12 AM ET) on Wednesday and a clear picture will emerge by that time. The President will decide who will get the first chance based on representation achieved.
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