Netanyahu Set to Seal Victory, Returning Him to Power Within Weeks

JERUSALEM — Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s opposition chief, was set on Thursday to seal victory in Israel’s normal election, placing him on observe to return as prime minister on the helm of one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli historical past.

Vote counting was anticipated to complete on Thursday afternoon, and Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc is nearly assured to attain a transparent victory, in keeping with close to ultimate outcomes printed by the electoral authority. That will be certain that Israel, after 5 elections in lower than 4 years, can have a cohesive authorities with a gentle majority for the primary time since 2019.

The far proper’s robust exhibiting was linked to fears amongst right-wing Jews about perceived threats to Israel’s Jewish id and to their private security. A wave of interethnic riots in Might 2021 unsettled their sense of safety, a sense that was compounded months later by the inclusion — for the primary time in Israeli historical past — of an Arab party in the coalition government.

These twin considerations drove some right-wing Israelis to extra excessive events in the latest election.

Though the coalition led by Mr. Netanyahu would offer a steady authorities, it might nonetheless unsettle Israel’s constitutional framework and social material.

At the moment standing trial on corruption costs, Mr. Netanyahu says that he won’t use his authority to scupper that course of. However a few of his coalition companions have mentioned they are going to push to legalize one of many crimes he’s accused of committing, and even to finish the trial completely.

His return would additionally take a look at a few of Israel’s diplomatic relations, most notably with america and with the Persian Gulf states with which Israel recently formed alliances.

Mr. Netanyahu himself oversaw the creation of these alliances throughout his final spell in workplace. However his new coalition allies’ priorities are more likely to heighten tensions with the Palestinians, which may embarrass Israel’s Arab and American companions.

These tensions underscore the complexity of Mr. Netanyahu’s return: As Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, he’s a recognized amount who has outlined up to date Israeli society maybe greater than every other politician. However his resolution to ally with the far proper, untrammeled by any centrist or leftist forces, takes Israel into the unknown.

Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right allies wish to weaken and overhaul Israel’s justice system, giving politicians extra management of judicial appointments and loosening the Supreme Court docket’s oversight of parliamentary course of. These allies may make such insurance policies a situation of their becoming a member of his coalition.

Additionally they wish to finish Palestinian autonomy in components of the occupied West Financial institution and have a historical past of antagonizing the Palestinian minority inside Israel itself, a observe report that has raised fears that the brand new authorities may exacerbate Jewish-Arab tensions in Israel and curb any remaining hope of an finish to the occupation.

Mr. Netanyahu could not formally return to energy till the second half of November. State protocols imply that the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, has till Nov. 16 to ask Mr. Netanyahu to assemble a authorities, and Mr. Netanyahu’s personal coalition negotiations would possibly take even longer.

International-policy consultants predict that Mr. Netanyahu, as soon as again in workplace, will likely be compelled to tread a clumsy path between mollifying hard-line allies at house whereas avoiding confrontations with worldwide companions that assist a two-state answer to the Israeli-Palestinian battle.

The State Division has already hinted that the Biden administration has reservations about Mr. Netanyahu’s seemingly coalition companions.

“We hope that every one Israeli authorities officers will proceed to share the values of an open, democratic society, together with tolerance and respect for all in civil society, notably for minority teams,” mentioned the division’s spokesman, Ned Worth, when requested in regards to the election outcome on Wednesday.

Aaron David Miller, a former senior official on the State Division, mentioned that Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu would attempt to keep away from battle as a result of they produce other, extra urgent priorities.

However, Mr. Miller mentioned, “At a minimal, Biden and Netanyahu will seemingly annoy the hell out of each other. ”

“The unprecedented character of the brand new Israeli authorities, probably the most right-wing in Israel’s historical past, will — to say the least — sharpen the variations,” he added.

Mr. Netanyahu was the first architect of the landmark diplomatic relationships that Israel cast in 2020 with Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, and re-election just isn’t anticipated to upend these new ties, even when it presents them with new challenges.

Although none of Israel’s new companions have renounced the Palestinian trigger, analysts say that Persian Gulf leaders now think about their very own nationwide pursuits to be a larger instant precedence.

“From the attitude of any of the Gulf states, normalization is tied to their long-term strategic plans and has little to do with the day-to-day of Israeli politics,” mentioned Elham Fakhro, a analysis fellow on the Heart for Gulf Research at Exeter College in England. “The identical method as U.S. presidents come and go, they see any relationship with Israel as transcending short-term political dynamics,” she added.

Simply as he went together with the Oslo accords within the Nineteen Nineties, after criticizing them whereas in opposition, Mr. Netanyahu can be anticipated to stay to a latest maritime deal with Lebanon that he condemned when it was negotiated.

However his election could make it tougher to formalize ties between Israel and probably the most influential Arab nation, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi authorities not too long ago made small diplomatic gestures to Israel, like allowing Israeli planes to fly through its airspace, however mentioned it might not comply with full diplomatic relations till the creation of a Palestinian state.

“It’s unlikely that there will likely be traction on the Saudi-Israeli diplomatic relationship,” Dr. Fakhro mentioned. In trade for normalizing ties, she added, Saudi Arabia “would anticipate one thing main in return. Netanyahu’s method — by definition — rejects the potential of main concessions.”

In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents worry that his return will empower the more extreme figures in his coalition. Certainly one of them, Bezalel Smotrich, desires to be protection minister; one other, Itamar Ben-Gvir, desires to supervise the police pressure.

Till 2020, Mr. Ben-Gvir hung a portrait in his house of an Israeli settler who shot useless 29 Palestinians in a West Financial institution mosque in 1994. As a teen, Mr. Ben-Gvir was barred from military service as a result of he was thought of too extremist. He additionally describes a hard-line rabbi who wished to strip Arab Israelis of their citizenship as his “hero.”

Mr. Netanyahu tried to calm fears about his return this week, promising in a speech on Wednesday morning that he would lead “a nationwide authorities that can take care of everybody.”

He additionally pledged to heal the divisions inside Israeli society, including that the nation “respects all its residents.”

However many in Israel’s Palestinian minority, which kinds roughly a fifth of the inhabitants, remained unconvinced and afraid.

“These are troublesome days,” mentioned Aida Touma-Suleiman, a Palestinian lawmaker within the Israeli Parliament. “This isn’t the bizarre, traditional proper that we all know. It is a change — wherein a racist, violent right-wing threatens to show into fascism.”

Myra Noveck and Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.

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