Israeli Election: “Been There; Done That…”
For the second time since April, Israel is holding its collective breath to see whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will eke out a fifth term in office or whether the mantle of leadership will pass to a political newcomer who has never held office. With the popular vote [Israel votes for parties, not people — ed.] a virtual dead-heat, it will be up to President Reuven Rivlin to assess who – Netanyahu or chief rival Benny Gantz] – will be given the first shot at weaving together a coalition of at least 61 out of 120 seats in parliament. April’s election was re-run in September because given that first shot last spring, Netanyahu – Israel’s longest-serving prime minister – was not able to do so. Avigdor Liberman, the man who prevented the formation of a Netanyahu government in April, a former defense minister who immigrated from Moldova and began his career as Netanyahu’s aid, is also reprising his role in the election drama. He is pressing for the formation of a unity government that excludes the ultra-religious sector – an important segment of Netanyahu’s political strength. The prime minister has more on the line than most political candidates, with pending indictments in a series of corruption cases looming large over his head and the possibility, albeit remote, that securing the prime ministry could include pardoning legislation. If none of the players blink relatively quickly, it is possible that Israel could see its third national election in nine months.