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Israel's election teases left that power is within reach

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Israel's election teases left that power is within reach


This Tuesday (March 17th), Israelis are threatening to vote Benjamin Netanyahu’s
right-wing government out of office. Centre-left Zionist Union candidate Isaac Herzog hopes to deny the Likud prime minister a fourth term.

At least one poll just days ago suggested that seven out of ten Israelis want change.

Herzog, Labour, is running with Hatnuah liberal leader the former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. If their campaign wins out, they have agreed to be premier for two years each. But convincing a majority of voters is no guarantee.

In Israel, you win only if you put a government coalition together to control at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset (parliament).

Netanyahu’s campaign, like his tenure, has all but ignored what most concerns Israelis: social and economic matters. While he’s been talking repeatedly about security and Iran, property prices have soared — 55 percent from 2008-2013 — leaving much of the middle class miserable.

Housing and social ethics Professor Neta Ziv said: “People in Israel, of course they are concerned about their security, but they are also concerned about the fact that they can’t buy a house, or they can’t rent a house, or they can’t help their children like they could a generation ago.”

Enter Yair Lapid, self-styled middle class champion, who was sacked as Finance Minister in Netanyahu’s government. The leader of the secular, centrist Yesh Atid party, which placed second in the 2013 elections, had not managed to bring housing prices down. Lapid is still popular and could give Zionist Union powerful back-up.

Another potential kingmaker is Moshe Kahlon, the former Likud Communications and Welfare Minister who left to form his own Kulanu party, with an economic egalitarian ideology. Israel’s traditional right bloc and left bloc must deal with the medium-size parties and small factions to grab for that prize coalition.

Netanyahu could still pull it off, since there are more seats on the right and extreme right than on the left.

Herzog, casting his net wide, has promised that he “…will be a prime minister to everyone,” including right, left, centre, periphery, settlers, religious Jews, Druze and Arabs.

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