Asia’s West-Side Story
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had dissolved the Parliament after his Likud Party’s poor show in the General Elections in April, and called interim polls. Netanyahu had also announced that he would occupy a portion of the West Bank, if re-elected! However, his bold announcement failed to win the confidence of the Israeli people, as the Likud Party failed to perform well yet again in September 18 Parliamentary Elections!
While Opposition leader Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party managed to win 33 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, Likud Party bagged 31 seats. As far as the pre-poll alliances are concerned, the Blue and White Party-led Central-Left coalition won a total of 57 seats, while the Likud Party-led coalition occupied 55 seats. The outcome of the razor-sharp election has made it clear that it will not be so easy for Netanyahu to form the next government. Nevertheless, the Israeli Strongman is trying hard to hold the Post of Prime Minister. He has invited Gantz and his Blue and White Party, which has emerged as the single largest party, to join the Government (to be led by Netanyahu). Soon after the results were declared, the outgoing Premier said in a video message: “Benny, it’s on us to form a broad Unity Government. Today, the nation expects us, both of us, to accept responsibility and work together.”
However, Gantz – the former Army Chief – rejected Netanyahu’s proposal, stressing that he would form the next Government. Even for Gantz, it will be a difficult task, as it is impossible (for both the Blue and White Party, and the Likud Party) to muster a majority coalition of 61 seats with their smaller allies.
In such a situation, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitenu Party is all set to become the Kingmaker. His party got nine seats. Speaking at a media conference, Lieberman said that he was in favour of a broad liberal unity government that would include his own party, Likud and Kahol Lavan (33 seats). Meanwhile, he confirmed that he was yet to reach any agreement with Kahol Lavan about a potential coalition. “I did not talk to either Netanyahu or Gantz, and I don’t intend to talk to them until after the next party meeting,” insisted Lieberman.
Experts believe that the fall of Netanyahu and his Likud Party was very much expected, mainly because of the strongman’s alleged involvement in corruption cases. It is difficult for a person, who faces possible charges of bribery and breach of trust, to hold his position only by making bold promises. Former Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor explained: “The real story, the other story, which is the most important story for Bibi, is his attempt to stop the criminal investigation against him by using Parliamentary Immunity.” He added: “He needed a majority in Parliament to give him immunity so that the charges against him – which are quite heavy, of (bribery), of corruption – will not be pursued.”
Of course, Netanyahu may project himself as the victim of a political witch-hunt and decide to fight a third General Election, but (perhaps) the Israeli people will not allow the long-time ruler to make a comeback…
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