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Israel elections: Netanyahu seeks return to power

November 1, 2022

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to make a political comeback with the support of far-right political parties like the Religious Zionism Party.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking while standing on the podium
In order to win, Benjamin Netanyahu's party has sought support from the extreme-right leader Itamar Ben-Gvir.Image: Ariel Schalit/AP Photo/picture alliance

Israelis on Tuesday began voting for the fifth time in four years after the "change coalition," which saw eight disparate parties come together, was dissolved.

Centrist caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid cast his vote early in the upscale district of Tel Aviv where he lives, telling reporters that the election represented a choice "between the future and the past."

Lapid and his allies helped oust long-serving Benjamin Netanyahu from power. Now Netanyahu and his Likud Party are hoping to make a political comeback.

What is the state of the race?

In this latest election, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for a comeback with the support of the political far-right in Israel.

"I'm a little worried," Netanyahu said after voting. "I hope we end the day with a smile.''

Last year, Netanyahu was ousted after 12 years in power by a coalition that now-Prime Minister Lapid helped form.

Long an influential voice in Israeli politics and journalism, Lapid previously served as the finance minister under Netanyahu. He now hopes to stay on as prime minister along with his centrist Yesh Atid party.

Netanyahu, facing corruption charges, has seen many former allies distance themselves from him. In an effort to bolster his chances for victory, Netanyahu has sought support from the ultra-nationalist leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir.

For Israelis, the election campaign comes amid months-long violence in the occupied West Bank. Security and inflation are top in the minds of the electorate.

Voters speaking to DW's Rebecca Ritters in Jerusalem said they want a stable government. 

"We want it to be the last election for four years, at least," one voter said.

Another voter, however, said he wasn't optimistic, "It’s the same story all over again. I think we will meet here in three months." 

In Israel, no single party has so far been able to form a government. Even more popular parties end up needing support from multiple smaller factions to clinch the 61 seats necessary for a majority in the 120-member Knesset, or Israeli parliament.

Who does Netanyahu hope can help him win?

The ultranationalist Religious Zionism Party has seen its popularity grow, according to opinion polls that reflect a rise in support for party co-chair, Itamar Ben-Gvir. The party is likely to become the third-largest in the Knesset, giving some hope to Netanyahu and his backers for his return to power.

Ben-Gvir and fellow far-right leader Bezalel Smotrich's Religious Zionist Party have been able to lure many voters away from Likud's traditional base.

lo, mf/ar (Reuters, AFP, AP)