Will the fighting end after the elections? - analysis

Like the two previous elections, Netanyahu has made himself once again the focus of this election. It’s all about him.

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protest outside Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel November 22, 2019. The placards in Hebrew read, "Strong in security, strong in Economy  (photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)
Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protest outside Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel November 22, 2019. The placards in Hebrew read, "Strong in security, strong in Economy
(photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)
Israelis already know the drill. Sadly.
After two elections, the most likely scenario based on current polling is that there will again be deadlock, meaning that there is a strong chance Israel will once again head to the polls during or after the summer.
The decision Israeli voters will make on Monday has the potential to determine the future of their state and it is not a simple one. On March 17 the bribery trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin and Israel will find itself in a situation it has never been in and never should’ve been in: a sitting Prime Minister standing trial for grave corruption charges.
Despite this, Netanyahu seems to be entering Election Day strong and with positive momentum. In the last week his polling numbers have increased - both in terms of the number of seats Likud will receive but also when it comes to the gap between him and Benny Gantz on the question of who is more suitable to serve as prime minister.
Almost no one talks about his pending trial - what it will mean for Israel, how he will be able to continue running the country while standing trial and what it does to the soul of the nation when it’s leader stays in power and sits on the defendant bench simultaneously.
To some extent, Netanyahu is right that what seems to unite his opponents is simply the desire to remove him from office, what is know as the “Anything but Bibi” camp. On the other hand though, the “Only Bibi” camp is no less cultish in its refusal to recognize reality - this prime minister has been in office already now for more than a decade consecutively and has a trial about to begin which despite his declarations will take up a lot more of his time than just an hour a day.
Cigars and alleged bribery don’t bother these supporters. They talk about Netanyahu being an underdog who is persecuted by the police, the attorney-general and the media. He seems to keep Israel safe so why change anything?
On the other side, there is legitimate criticism of Blue and White and the campaign it has run. There have been mistakes (like the recording that came out last week of his top adviser saying Gantz is weak on Iran) and more. The bottom line is that as impressive as Gantz seems to be he hasn’t swept up the masses and led to a move of votes across camps - from the Likud to Blue and White.
Like the two previous elections, Netanyahu has made himself once again the focus of this election. It’s all about him. None of the attempts to divert the focus - to annexation, Naama Issachar (remember her?) or even Gaza - have worked. It remains a fight between those who want Netanyahu to stay and those who don’t.
What will happen is difficult to predict. Will Netanyahu get the 61 seats on the Right with Avigdor Liberman or will he fall short and then try to get some members of Blue and White to defect over to his side? Will Gantz be willing to form a minority government with Arab support and will Liberman even let him?
On Monday night we will have a better clue where things are headed but the real work will start on Tuesday, the day after elections when the sides will begin to actively recruit defectors.
The voting might come to an end at 10 pm on Monday, but the political bickering is still far from over.


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