Right-wing bloc to have strong lead over Center-left

Gantz and Netanyahu head to head in election polls, with clear benefit for right-wing bloc. Right-wing parties would win 66 Knesset seats. Channel 13 said in a poll released. Sixty-six of the Knesset’s 120 seats is the best showing by right-wing parties in Channel 13’s last three polls. Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party was tied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in the survey, with each party capturing 28 seats. Despite Gantz’s 30-to-26 lead over Likud in Yedioth’s poll, the former military chief of staff would have a hard time forming a government. Netanyahu’s base of ultra-Orthodox, right-wing and far-right parties would have 63 seats, while Kahol Lavan, center-left, left-wing and Arab parties would have 57.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fallen behind his main challenger in opinion polls ahead of next week’s Israeli election but still has an easier path to form a government that would keep him in power for a record fifth term. Netanyahu, who has dominated Israeli politics for a generation, is fighting for his political survival against former top general Benny Gantz, a political novice. No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations will lay ahead. Criminal indictments against Netanyahu, who has denied any wrongdoing in three cases of alleged bribery and fraud, could darken his political future and that of any government he might head, possibly leading to a new election. Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party was projected to take 30 seats, more than the 26 forecast for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud. The poll also projected a combined total of 63 seats for the parties in Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, a slender but feasible majority. Other polls showed similar results. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will consult with the leaders of every party represented in parliament and choose whoever he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition. The nominee has up to 42 days to form a government before the president asks another politician to try.
No charges have yet been brought and there will be a before-trial hearing at which Netanyahu can challenge any findings. If indicted, he is under no obligation to quit, but he would need coalition partners to stand by him to avert a new election. Netanyahu’s competitors have campaigned hard on the corruption issue, producing posters, car bumper stickers and election rally banners. Since 2014, personalities and personal attacks have dominated an election campaign that has largely gloss over war-and-peace issues that once dominated Israeli political debate. Netanyahu has thrown away Gantz, a former military chief, as a weak leftist who would endanger Israel’s security by giving territorial concessions to the Palestinians. Gantz professes a commitment to peace while giving no clear indication whether he would support the Palestinian goal of statehood in territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war. Netanyahu has also highlighted his close relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who overturned decades of U.S. policy and international consensus to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s capital. Netanyahu visited Trump last month. At the meeting, Trump, in what was widely seen as a bid to boost Netanyahu, again broke with long-term policy to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, also captured in 1967.
Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot for Israel’s national election, yet he’s a dominant factor for many American Jews as they assess the high stakes of Tuesday’s balloting. The election is a judgment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has won the post four times but now faces corruption charges. In his battle for political survival, Netanyahu has aligned closely with Trump. “The world has come to understand that Netanyahu is essentially the political twin of Donald Trump,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street. Netanyahu featured Trump in a recent campaign video, while Trump has made a series of policy moves viewed as strengthening Netanyahu in the eyes of Israeli voters, including relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and officially recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Though Israel leans Democratic overall, the American Jewish community numbering 5.5 million to 6 million. Older Jews remain supportive of Israel’s current Middle East policies, as does the roughly 10 percent of the Jewish population that is Orthodox. “Republicans are waiting with open arms,” Trump tweeted on March 15.Morton Klein, president of the conservative Zionist Organization of America, predicts such an exodus will take place because of the Democrats’ decision to avoid explicit condemnation of the congresswomen. New York-based journalist Jane Eisner, former editor of The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, said many American Jews have “Netanyahu fatigue” – even some who supported him in past. Among liberal Jews, Eisner said, there are strong worries that Netanyahu will push Israel’s government even further to the right if he wins, perhaps moving to annex some land in the occupied West Bank with confidence that the Trump administration will not object. Morton Klein conceded that some Jews have grown weary of Netanyahu, but predicted he would prevail.”People would be nervous if he’s not there,” Klein said. Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, said any surge in Netanyahu fatigue should not be interpreted as a weakening of American Jews’ support for Israeli. Among liberal and centrist American Jews, dismay with Netanyahu extends beyond his alliance with Trump. Some say he’s been too harsh in his treatment of migrants, and they bemoan his backtracking on a promise to allow mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall. Perhaps most disturbing has been Netanyahu’s alliance with an ultranationalist political party linked to a movement previously banned for anti-Arab racism and incitement. In Israel, a prevalent view, at least in pro-Netanyahu ranks, is that the prime minister’s friendship with Trump is paying unprecedented dividends. There is widespread sentiment that liberal American Jews, as a constituency, are dissipating due to intermarriage, and that the evangelical Christian community in the U.S. is a more dependable ally for Israel. At last year’s ceremony in Jerusalem celebrating the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, evangelical Christian pastors allied with Trump delivered the opening and closing blessings. Netanyahu’s main challenger in the election is Benny Gantz, a former military chief popular in Israel but with a relatively low profile in the United States. American Jews who dislike Netanyahu view Gantz as preferable, due in part to a less combative personality, but liberals note with frustration that the platform of Gantz’s Blue and White party makes no mention of Palestinian statehood, and says that Israel will maintain control of parts of the West Bank. Emily Mayer of IfNotNow, a group of youthful American Jewish activists opposed to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, is dismayed at how that issue has been marginalized in the Israeli election campaign.
Please note that the views expressed are entirely of Israeli politicians and American Jews.

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