In Israel, a new ballot to try to break the political deadlock

A Likud campaign poster with its president Benjamin Netanyahu on the streets of Jerusalem on Sunday March 1.
A Likud campaign poster with its president Benjamin Netanyahu on the streets of Jerusalem on Sunday March 1. Ammar Awad / REUTERS

The moment of truth will strike on Monday (March 2nd) in Israel with the third legislative elections in less than a year that could end the country's most serious political crisis and seal the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been charged with corruption.

After elections in April and September 2019 that failed to decide between the Likud (right) of Mr. Netanyahu and the centrist party Kahol Lavan (Blue White) of Benny Gantz, more than six million voters are again invited at the polls in the hope of completing this political triathlon.

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Polling stations open at 7 a.m. (6 a.m. in Paris) and close at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. in Paris). The first results of the polls out of the ballot boxes will immediately follow. The first partial official results will be announced overnight.

A new variable, the indictment of Netanyahu

One thing has changed since the last election: the indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu, who became the first head of government in history in Israel to be indicted in November, and moreover for corruption, embezzlement and breach of trust . In one of the files, the justice system suspects him of having granted government favors which could have brought millions of dollars to the boss of the telecom company Bezeq, in exchange for favorable media coverage of the group's media.

The indictment of Mr. Netanyahu, who is playing his political future two weeks before the start of his trial on March 17, has not caused his support for Likud to falter, according to the latest polls. They predict a new close fight with Mr. Gantz who could be played with one or two seats.

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In the final stretch of the campaign, Mr. Netanyahu saw his support slightly increase to follow Benny Gantz, former chief of staff, in the voting intentions.

Bleu Blanc counts on the support of the left parties

According to the latest barometers, neither the Likoud nor Bleu Blanc can hope for more than thirty seats on the 120 of the Parliament, hence the importance of the results of their allies and non-aligned formations for this poll, including the big unknown is the participation rate.

Mr. Netanyahu counts on the support of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish formations of Shass, coopting a significant part of the Sephardic voices (Eastern Jews), of the unified Judaism of the Torah, which is mainly addressed to the Ashkenazi Orthodox (from Eastern Europe). 'East) and from the Yamina list (radical right) of the current Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett.

Bleu Blanc, for its part, is counting on the support of the left-wing parties which have gathered in a single list and could, possibly, benefit from ad hoc support from the United List of Israeli Arab Parties. The latter had caused surprise in September by climbing the third step of the podium and want not only to repeat this feat but to exceed it.

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The United List attempts to reap the fruits of frustration among the Israeli Arab minority (about 20% of the population) linked to the American plan for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a project applauded by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians. President Donald Trump's plan to make Jerusalem the capital "Indivisible" of Israel, as well as the transfer of control of a dozen Israeli Arab villages and towns to a future Palestinian state.

Several unknowns, including the impact of the coronavirus

Mr. Netanyahu also campaigned on the basis of the Trump plan, promising the rapid annexation of the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, as provided for in the plan. .

Benny Gantz, who also supports the American project, campaigned in part on the Prime Minister's legal problems, inviting people to vote in favor of the "End of the Netanyahu era", in power for 14 years, including the last decade without interruption.

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In this polarized context, the Israel Beiteinou formation slides, which is not aligned with either of the two big blocs, and whose leader Avigdor Lieberman, a secular nationalist hostile to Arab and Orthodox Jewish parties, could tip the scales in favor of the one or the other.

Another unknown in this electoral panorama: the fear of the new coronavirus. Seven cases have been identified in Israel and parties fear that the spread of "False news" on the epidemic is pushing voters not to vote. Authorities have asked some 5,600 Israelis who have come into contact with people infected with the new coronavirus or who have traveled to countries affected by the epidemic to stay at home. They can then vote in offices reserved for them, according to the Ministry of Health.

The World with AFP


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