Netanyahu mounts final push to grab power in election

Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu. (AFP)

Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu. (AFP)

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has launched a last-minute media blitz to convince voters he should stay in office as he continues to lose ground to his main challenger – the Zionist Union – led by Yitzhak Herzog.

The last polls in the election campaign, published on Friday, suggested Herzog’s party was continuing to creep ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud, with its two-seat lead a week ago doubling to four.

Under Israeli election rules no polls can published in the last four days of the campaign until exit polls are released at 10pm on Tuesday night.

The top-selling Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot showed Likud’s main challenger, the Zionist Union coalition, winning 26 of the 120 seats in parliament against 22 for Netanyahu’s party.

A second poll published jointly by the Jerusalem Post and Maariv dailies showed the same four-seat gap between the parties, with the Zionist Union winning 25 against 21 for Likud. Both gave third place to the Arab-Israeli Joint List with 13 seats.

Herzog and Netanyahu are now battling for a handful of seats that will determine who will lead the country.

Possibilities for coalition
Despite his party trailing in polls, under Israel’s electoral system Netanyahu may still find it easier to form a right-leaning coalition and stay in power. Much depends on who two centrist parties led by Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon decide to back.

As parties entered the finale of a closely fought campaign, both Netanyahu and Herzog used interviews to reject suggestions they could alternate power in a national unity government.

With evidence that Netanyahu has failed to inspire his political base, the media strategy seems designed to alarm wavering Likud voters – or those considering voting for another party – to turn out on Tuesday.

Following mounting criticism from within his own party over his campaign, Netanyahu has granted a series of interviews to the Israeli media in which he has conceded that he risks losing the election.

Supporters of Israel’s right-wing parties also plan to rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday in an event organisers have said they hope Netanyahu will attend.

With the relative balance between the two main blocs of political parties from which a coalition might be formed still so close, the last four days of the campaign are regarded as crucial not least in an electorate where perhaps upwards of 20% of voters are expected to decided who they will back during this period.

Netanyahu has continued to pursue his strategy of warning that an Israel with him at his helm would be in danger.

“I think our security is at great risk because there is a real danger that we could lose this election”, he told the Jerusalem Post in an attempt to reverse of drift of voters away from him.

“If the gap between the Likud and Labor continues to grow, a week from now Herzog and Livni will become the prime ministers of Israel in a rotation with the backing of the Arab parties.
That will cause such a monumental shift in policy that it will endanger the security of Israel – and anyone who wants to stop it has to vote Likud to narrow the gap.

“There is no privilege now to vote for other parties,” Netanyahu added. In his interview with Israel’s Channel 2 repeated the claims he has made in recent days that “tens of millions of dollars” had been channelled from “European states” and from “leftwingers overseas” to prevent his re-election.

“There are governments that oppose me and want to bring down the right,” he said. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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