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Israeli Election Dramatic Developments

Labor Party Leader Shelli Yechimovich: " We Will Not Join Netanyahu Coalition – Either I'll Be Next Prime Minister Or Lead Opposition"

Latest Poll Shows Far Right Party Lead By Naftali Bennett Would Win 18 Knesset Seats – Likud Slips To Thirty-Five

IsraCast Assessment: Labor Leader Tries To Gain Left Wing Momentum By Declaring She Will Not Join Netanyahu Coalition But Lead The Opposition If Labor Does Not Win Upcoming Election. Far Right Jewish Home Snatches More Seats From Likud

Age of Extremes- A spectacular victory for the far Right Jewish Home party appears to be in the offing. The latest poll indicates that party leader Naftali Bennet continues to soar in the current election campaign winning 18 Knesset seats in the 120 member parliament. And there is no doubt that Bennett, a young and charismatic newcomer on the political scene, deserves all the credit. Just two weeks ago, who served in the vaunted Sayyeret Matkal special forces unit, shocked the nation by saying that if he were ordered to evict Israeli settlers from their homes he would not do it and prefer to be sentenced to prison. Bennett swiftly apologized saying he did not mean to incite IDF soldiers to disobey orders. However Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pounced on Bennett's blunder by declaring: "Anyone who incites soldiers to disobey orders cannot serve in my government!" Netanyahu, like just about everyone else including yours truly, reckoned that Bennett would pay dearly in the polls. But think again! Lo and behold, Bennet rose to 18 seats tied with Labor's Shelli Yechimovich. And where has Bennett gained more prospective voters? From none other than the ranks of Likud – Beiteinu.

Naftali Bennett

This episode reveals that the trend, reflected in the rise of hardliners in the recent Likud primary election, is continuing in the current campaign. It is now clear that many Right-wingers turned against Netanyahu after what they perceived as his diatribe against Bennett, who advocates the building of more Jewish settlements in the West Bank on public land and rejects the two-state solution. Netanyahu appears to have lost hard-core Right wingers to Bennett. Meanwhile Shas, the Sepharadi ultra-orthodox party, has also dipped in the polls after slurring Likud- Beiteinu for being: 'a bunch of Russians (a reference to Lieberman and Russian immigrants) and whites (a Ashkenazi Jews)'.

Labor's Shelly Yechimovich has seen the writing on the wall - her attempt has failed to attract low-income voters from the Likud. Not only have they not flocked to her pitch of 'taxing the rich and giving to the poor', Yechimovich has lost some of those Laborites who are annoyed that she has been cozying up to joining a Netanyahu government. Now Yechimovich has declared: "It's either Prime Minister or Opposition leader!" But in the meantime, some angry Laborites have jumped ship for the far Left Meretz party that has now risen from four to seven seats. The question is whether they will now return to the Labor fold.

Netanyahu and Lieberman

Since no one party, even the Likud, can win the necessary sixty-one seat majority in the 120 member Knesset, the campaign is turning into an acrimonious free-for- all inside the Right and Left wing blocs. But don't worry; in keeping with Middle East custom, the potential coalition partners will kiss and make up after the election when the horse trading begins on forging a new coalition government. According to some polls, there are a lot of floating votes still out there to the tune of some twenty-five Knesset seats. Yechimovich still believes that Labor now has a better than even chance of taking the lion's share and turn the tables on Netanyahu. But most pundits see this as a very long shot.

Israeli voting system: When the polling stations are closed on the night of January 22, the total number of ballots cast will be divided by 120 to determine how many votes are required for a party to receive one mandate. This quota is then divided into the total number cast for the individual parties to tally the number of seats each has won.

David Essing

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