Israelis Vote in Elections Seen Swinging to the Right

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  • W460
  • W460
  • W460
  • W460

Polls opened on Tuesday in Israel's general election, which is expected to return Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power at the head of a government of hardline right-wing and religious parties.

The ballot to choose Israel's 19th parliament is likely to usher in a sharply right-wing government, diminishing the chances of a peace deal with the Palestinians and raising the prospect of greater diplomatic isolation for the Jewish state.

Those elected will face key diplomatic and foreign policy questions, including Iran's nuclear program, which much of the world believes is a cover for a weapons drive, 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.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, running on a joint list with the hardline secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, is well ahead of its rivals.

But polls taken shortly before the election showed falling support for Likud-Beitenu, which is now seen taking 32 seats -- 10 fewer than it currently holds -- although the center-left Labor party, its closest contender, is projected to win a distant 17.

Final polls suggested the right-wing-religious bloc would take between 61 and 67 seats, compared with 53 to 57 for the center-left and Arab parties.

In a largely uneventful campaign, the surprise element has been Naftali Bennett, the young, charismatic new leader of the hardline national religious Jewish Home who took over the party in November and is a rising star among settlers.

The party, which firmly opposes a Palestinian state and won just three seats in 2009, is on course to win 15, making it the third faction in parliament and a likely partner in any future coalition government.

Bennett's explosion onto the political scene has rattled Netanyahu, pundits say, with the premier pushing hard to stem the defection of voters to Jewish Home by burnishing his own credentials as a defender of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories.

Some 5.65 million Israelis are eligible to vote in Tuesday's parliamentary elections.

Voters will be able to cast ballots at 10,132 polling stations which are open for 15 hours later, with television exit polls due to be broadcast immediately after they close.

Security has been tightened across the country and more than 20,000 police officers have been deployed to secure the vote.

With Netanyahu almost certain to return to the premier's office, the big question what his coalition will look like and how it will steer Israel on key issues such as settlement activity, talks with the Palestinians and Iran.

But pundits were unanimous he would pick his natural allies to form the next government, which was widely expected to be dominated by right-wing and religious parties.

"In the next coalition, which will include Likud-Beitenu, Jewish Home, Shas, United Torah Judaism and perhaps Yesh Atid as well, there will be a majority, for the first time in history, for the ultra-Orthodox and religious MPs," wrote Shalom Yerushalmi in Maariv newspaper.

"This is mainly a great victory for the settlers, who have become the leading ideological force in the country."

Comments 7
Thumb jabalamel 22 January 2013, 11:53

how much more "right" can they be?

whatever party is in power, the genocidal policies continue.

Missing servant-of-jesus 22 January 2013, 13:58

not true.
Watch 'Budrus'. It's a documentary.
You will find out that there is a growing movement of Israeli youth who want the rights of the Palestinians.

Thumb jabalamel 22 January 2013, 15:04

yeah right

they have grown from 1% of the population to 1,05% of population

big progress

Missing anonymetexasusa 22 January 2013, 18:05

Kanaan
That's because Palestinians living in Israel belong to Israel/Palestine.
Palestinians living in Lebanon are not Lebanese to get Lebanese citizenship.
Second did you forget that Palestinians - who came as guests to Lebanon - turned their weapons against their Lebanese hosts, and boasted loud for all to hear that they became the masters of Lebanon in late 1970's early 1980's. So yes some Lebanese are holding a grudge against Palestinians.

Missing anonymetexasusa 22 January 2013, 18:19

Kanaan
FYI
Some Israeli politicians/parties have campaigned on passing a law that would take away Israeli citizenship from Arab Israeli citizens who don't demonstrate sufficient allegiance to Israel.

Thumb jabalamel 22 January 2013, 17:24

the filthy zionist scum want to push idea that palestinians should get lebanese citizenship

NO

those palestinians will return to their land after your filthy genocidal miltia loses next war

Missing bigjohn 22 January 2013, 18:01

The Blacks in South Africa under Apartheid had citizenship and so did Jews in Germany. That does not mean much.

Whether Zionists swing to the "right or Left", they still are Zionists...a colonial ethnic cleansing racist terrorist settlement state whose existence is a CRIME.