Israel’s Elections Consolidate a Steady Shift to the Far Right

Israel’s Elections Consolidate a Steady Shift to the Far Right
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to his supporters after the first exit poll results for Israel’s elections were announced, Jerusalem, Israel, Nov. 2, 2022 (AP photo by Oren Ziv).

Israeli voters went to the polls for the fifth time since 2019 on Tuesday, in elections that many expected to deliver the same kind of “Groundhog Day” outcome of indecisive deadlock that characterized the previous four ballots. Instead, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a stunning political comeback, overcoming his legal jeopardy stemming from corruption trials and a toxic personal brand that had splintered the Israeli right to win an outright majority.

For the past three years, opposition to Netanyahu had driven the formation of an “anyone but Bibi” coalition among political factions that otherwise had little to nothing in common. The result after the last elections in March 2021 was a fragile coalition spanning Israel’s political spectrum and including for the first time an Israeli Arab party, Ra’am, as part of the government. But while that coalition proved more durable than many anticipated, it was too slim to survive the day-to-day attrition of Israeli politics and fell this June.

To regain the top job, Netanyahu formed an electoral coalition that included for the first time two figures from the Israeli far right. On a combined list, the Religious Zionism party moved from the extremist fringes of Israeli politics to become the third-largest delegation in Israel’s Knesset parliament, behind Netanyahu’s Likud and outgoing interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Along with two religious ultra-orthodox parties that have been traditional allies, Netanyahu will now govern with a secure and relatively stable 64-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

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