Israel to see right-wing poll victory

Israel to see right-wing poll victory

Israel to see right-wing poll victory

A nun walks past posters of Israel’s PM Netanyahu on the wall of Jerusalem’s old city. Hebrew reads, ‘Only Netanyahu will keep Jerusalem.’ AP photo

Israelis head to the polls today in general elections that are likely to see a host of right-wing parties led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party emerge victorious.

Netanyahu made an election-eve appeal yesterday to wavering supporters to “come home,” showing concern over a forecasted far-right surge that would keep him in power but weaken him politically.

“I have no doubt that many, many people will decide at the last minute to come home to Likud-Yisrael Beitenu,” said Netanyahu, who polls predict will still win the election, albeit by a narrower margin than first forecast. “I have a good feeling. And at the last minute, I appeal to each and every citizen going to the ballot box: ‘Decide for whom you are going to vote – for a divided and weak Israel or for a united and strong Israel and a large governing party?’”

Security was heightened across the country with more than 20,000 police officers deployed to secure the vote, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. “Israeli police have heightened security nationwide and over 20,000 police officers, border policemen and volunteers are being deployed to secure the ballots and extra security measures taken to enable the public to vote at all locations,” he said.

The final opinion polls, on Jan. 18, showed Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, running on a joint list of candidates with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, still set to win.

But the surveys indicated his support had dipped to its lowest point so far and forecast that a potential right-wing and religious bloc of parties led by Likud-Yisrael Beitenu would have a slim parliamentary majority of 63 out of 120 seats.

Possible partner
With the campaign entering its home stretch, party leaders and activists fought to secure the support of the as-yet undecided 15 percent of the electorate, which press reports said amounted to 17 or 18 seats.

A relatively weak showing would make Netanyahu, who has pledged during the campaign to pursue settlement building in the occupied West Bank, more susceptible to the demands of potential coalition partners, including Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Jewish Home Party, and religious parties.

Netanyahu has campaigned largely on security issues, shrugging off as misplaced international opposition to settlement building that most countries view as illegal. A splintered center-left bloc, whose parties hope to win a majority but may also join a Netanyahu-led government, has had trouble finding a joint message in opposition. 

Shelly Yachimovich, whose Labor party is forecast to win about 18 seats, has focused on high living costs and economic woes, hoping to translate mass social protests from two years ago into an election victory.

Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and negotiator with the Palestinians, has promised to work for a regional peace deal. Her Hatnuah party is expected to win fewer than 10 seats.

Those elected will face key diplomatic and foreign policy questions, including Iran’s nuclear program, and pressure to revive peace talks with the Palestinians. No less pressing are the domestic challenges, including a major budget crisis and looming austerity cuts which are likely to exacerbate already widespread discontent over spiraling prices and the cost of living.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.