RPT: PREVIEW - Political Deja Vu In Israel As Parties Get Ready For Snap Parliamentary Vote

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RPT: PREVIEW - Political Deja Vu in Israel as Parties Get Ready for Snap Parliamentary Vote

TEL AVIV (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 17th September, 2019) As Israel prepares to vote in Tuesday's snap general election, the competition between the two front runners - the center-right ruling Likud party and the centrist Blue and White alliance - remains fierce, making the political future of the Israeli state blurred.

When incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud's leader, failed to form a coalition government following the previous elections in April, it was for the first time in Israel's history that its parliament voted to dissolve itself and call a snap election.

The Israeli parliament, Knesset, has 120 seats. Elections comprise two components: first, people vote for the party of their choice via secret ballot in a single nationwide electoral district, after which each party gets allocated a number of seats proportional to the votes it gained. The minimum vote threshold to win a seat is 3.25 percent, and 61 seats are required to form a majority government.

APRIL STALEMATE MIGHT REPEAT ITSELF

According to the freshest polls, there are ten political parties likely to make it beyond the minimum vote threshold. In pretty much all of them, as compiled by the Haaretz newspaper, Likud and Blue and White lead the vote with indexes ranging from 31 to 33 each, which means that in case of a victory neither will likely manage to form a government single-handedly. In April elections, they each won 35 seats.

They are followed by the predominantly Arab alliance of Joint List (10.5 percent on average), the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu of former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman (average 9.5 percent of vote), far-right Yamina alliance led by Ayelet Shaked (average 9.5 percent), the ultra-Orthodox parties of United Torah Judaism (average 7.5 percent) and Shas (average 7 percent), left-wing Democratic Union (average 6 percent), center-left Labor-Gesher party (average 5.5 percent) and far-right Otzma Yehudit party (average 4 percent).

With few minor deviations, these results repeat the outcomes of elections in April. Back then, Likud and Blue and White each won 35 seats, with the next runner up gaining only 8. The right bloc in total secured 65 seats, but Lieberman pulled his party back over a disagreement on a law that would grant full-time Torah students exemption from conscription and thus made Netanyahu's coalition fall one seat short of an absolute majority.

In current circumstances, the most that Likud can count on is 59 mandates of the rightist and religious parties, while for Blue and White the best possible outcome is expected to be 54 mandates.

REAL COMPETITION TO BEGIN AFTER RESULTS ARE ANNOUNCED

When Netanyahu realized he was going to fail in forming a coalition, he forced the dissolution of the parliament and ensuing snap general vote, says Anna Raiva, the political observer of Maariv newspaper, so he might resort to all sorts of non-conventional methods for making sure a coalition is formed this time. According to sociologist and political scientist Zeev Khanin, Netanyahu might actually succeed in shaping a religious-rightist government, but it is unlikely to be stable and will most probably last no longer than two years.

"Netanyahu will apply every possible effort and is already attempting to break the Blue and White apart and offer [to the leader of Blue and White] Benny Gantz either the post of defense minister or even a rotation [of premiership] ... There is one more thing he has attempted but failed. He tried to divert separate members of Yisrael Beiteinu and Blue and White," Khanin said.

According to the scientist, the only stable coalition might be formed between the two frontrunners - Likud and Blue and White.

"I do not say this option is the most likely one. It is the most stable one.

And it has a chance to last for all four years," he added.

Yet, neither of the parties have voiced the possibility of such an alliance.

RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA APPEAR TO BE UNITING LINK BETWEEN TWO MAJOR POLITICAL RIVALS

Despite acute disagreement on multiple political matters, the two parties demonstrate surprising solidarity in their vision of the Israeli-Russian relations. The Blue and White leaders, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, emphasize, in particular, the role of Israeli-Russian dialogue in stabilizing the middle East.

"I think the relations between Israel and Russia are very important. The Middle East is permanently unstable. So I believe that the continuous Israeli-Russian dialogue is important. I took part in it as well when I served as chief of General Staff [of Israeli Armed Forces in 2011-2015] and I am determined to uphold it when I become prime minister," Gantz told Sputnik.

Lapid, in turn, said that these relations have deep roots and that even the current disagreement over the Iranian presence in Syria does not overshadow the benefits that both Russia and Israel gain from bilateral cooperation.

"Undoubtedly, we want to continue the cooperation with Russia. And yes, I would like to stress that we have disagreements on hindrance of the Iranian presence in Syria. But these are disagreements between friends, between close friends. Maintaining this friendship is very important for us. I very much believe in these relations between Russia and Israel and, hopefully, between us and Mr. Putin," Lapid told Sputnik.

The Knesset speaker and one of the Likud leaders, Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, echoed their opinion and added that the Israeli-Russian cooperation extends far beyond the military array and encompasses trade, financial and cultural affairs as well.

"What we have seen over the past years, I'll refrain from pompous language - what amounts to a miracle - is that we preserve the relations. Aside from everything else, the trade relations, financial relations, cultural ties - they benefit Israel and, by the way, I think that they benefit Russia, too. We also contribute unto these relations. [We] do not only take, but also give," Edelstein told Sputnik.

According to the Knesset speaker, the good Russia-Israel relations are brought about by the good relations between their leaders. Likud has even installed gigantic election placards in Tel Aviv that feature Netanyahu and Putin exchanging handshakes.

"It is no secret that the personal relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have significantly contributed to the coordination and cooperative atmosphere that we see in this uneasy situation. Let's frankly admit this. Of course, what takes place to the north of our country - Syria, Lebanon and the presence of Russians in Syria - creates an uneasy situation, which both sides handle with dignity," Edelstein told Sputnik.

Interestingly, five days to the vote, Netanyahu visited the Russian city of Sochi and held talks with President Vladimir Putin, during which the latter voiced hope that the Israeli politicians after elections would preserve and further develop the bilateral Russia-Israel relations. He also visited Russia for talks with Putin shortly before the April elections. In total, the two leaders have met as many as 13 times.

"If it were not for these relations - personal relations between Netanyahu and Putin and ensuing normalization [of relations] between our countries - there would be a real danger, a danger of a very serious conflict," Edelstein added.

Regardless of how the snap vote on Tuesday ends, the politicians agree on that Israel will adhere to preserving and bettering its relations with Russia.

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