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In Israel’s fifth election in four years, Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to take back the presidency. Tuesday, with the growth of the extreme right possibly helping his chances. The 73-year-old right-wing security hawk and longest-serving leader in Israeli history are running for office from the opposition for the first time in years. He is up against centrist caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who last year manipulated a loose coalition of eight parties into an alliance that was successful in ousting Mr. Netanyahu from office.
After completing a historic maritime boundary agreement with Lebanon’s adversary, Mr. Lapid enters the November 1 election on a diplomatic high note and opens offshore gas wealth for both countries.
While still facing a corruption trial, Mr. Netanyahu is betting that his record-breaking 15 years in office will persuade voters that only him possesses the expertise needed to lead the nation.
According to surveys, Netanyahu’s Likud is expected to become the largest party in the Knesset, but in a political system where coalitions are common, his route to becoming prime minister is far from clear.
Both leaders are anticipated to start tough negotiations with smaller parties even as the votes are still being tabulated in an effort to secure the 61 seats required for a parliamentary majority.
In order to accomplish this, Mr. Netanyahu must rekindle his long-standing links to the ultra-Orthodox while courting the extreme-right coalition of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
With a potential third-place finish and a more than doubling of its present six seats, the pair’s Religious Zionism alliance is soaring in the polls.
The support of the extreme right could be Netanyahu’s ticket back to power, a move that would probably be made in exchange for giving Ben-Gvir enormous authority.
One of his advisers stated that Lapid “wants to make sure Netanyahu does not obtain these 61 (seats) with his friends” because Yesh Atid is trailing Likud in the polls.
Such a plan entails both persuading Israelis to reject the Likud leader and ensuring that his prospective partners receive votes.
In order to enter parliament under Israel’s electoral system, a party must win a minimum of four seats.
The four-seat threshold is being threatened by a number of parties, most notably all three Arab-led groupings that have previously challenged Mr. Netanyahu.
The leader of Raam, the first Arab party to join a ruling coalition last year, Mansour Abbas, told AFP that the Arab people is experiencing a “crisis of confidence.”
Around 20% of Israelis identify as Arab, therefore if their vote declines as predicted, Netanyahu’s party may gain additional seats.