Netanyahu Secures Fifth Term as Israeli PM Amidst Controversy
After a contentious election, the party-dubbed “King of Israel” Benjamin Netanyahu has managed secure a fifth term as Prime Minister of Israel, reports Haaretz.
Netanyahu’s Likud party previously tied with his opponent General Benny Gantz in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Each initially garnering 35 seats apiece, Likud only managed to edge out Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party by one seat by the end of the election. Likewise, smaller right wing parties allied with Likud managed to eke out 10 seats against Kahol Lavan’s smaller left-wing and centrist allies, who garnered 9 seats.
A tight race resulting in a clear victory for the Israeli right and an uncertain future for Arabs living in Israel and Palestine, this election cycle was not without controversy. The Jerusalem Post reports that Likud and the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party each filed complaints with Israel’s Central Election Committee, petitioning over missing voting slips.
Likud headquarters previously received reports that 26 polling stations in Petah Tikvah, a city in the Israel’s Central District, lost all of the Likud ballots submitted there. Yisrael Beytenu reported a similar problem in voting districts in several parts of the country. These petty crimes dampened spirits for the election and only served to further polarize the country.
This was not the election’s only voting scandal. According to both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, Likud activists were working to disrupt the Arab Israeli vote, allegedly wire-tapping phones and installing hidden cameras in voting booths in local Arab communities. The Arab Israeli parties responded harshly to the attempted sabotage, with the Hadash-Ta’al Party quickly filing complaint.
“The extreme Right understands very well our power to topple the government,” Hadash said in a public statement. “But we also understand our power. We are going to vote today, against their noses and anger.” Despite this show of strength, it appears that such right-wing intimidation tactics did have their desired effect. Arab Israeli turnout during the election was the lowest in history, reports Haaretz.
In another blow to the Arab Israeli community, Prime Minister Netanyahu also promised his Jewish constituents that he would begin attempting to annex territory in the West Bank, reports the Los Angeles Times. Netanyahu has consistently shown himself as an opponent of the two-state solution over the years, sticking by the belief that a Palestinian state would represent a “mortal threat” to Israel. Considering the already high-running tensions between the two states, a move to annex Palestinian-controlled West Bank territories is a serious blow to potential Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Perhaps the most famous scandal from this election cycle is Netanyahu’s corruption charges. Avihai Mandelblit, the Israeli Attorney General, released plans in February to indict the Prime Minister, a first in Israeli political history, reports NBC News. The two-year long investigation resulted in four charges, three counts of breach of trust and one count of bribery. The situation was exasperated by the fact that the police chief that headed the investigation and the attorney general who handed down the indictment were Netanyahu’s own men.
Netanyahu responded to the allegations by equating the charges with “blood libel,” a term sometimes used to describe anti-Semitic tropes, according to The Economist. The accusation was historically leveled at European Jews in the Middle Ages, connoting the belief that Jews were mixing the blood of murdered Christian children in their unleavened Matzah bread eaten during Passover.
Per Israeli law, the Israeli government will not formerly charge Netanyahu until they carry out a pre-indictment hearing. However, Haaretz reports that the King of Israel currently has no plan to resign even if indicted.