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Stalemate Looms as Israel Prepares for Yet Another Election

With just days to go before its third election on March 2, Israel is staring at yet another stalemate as opinions polls indicate that there will be no clear winner. This will be a major blow to embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who had hoped that Trump’s Middle East peace plan would boost his chances of winning.

Current Forecast for Israel’s Upcoming Election

The Channel 13 poll predicted 36 Knesset seats for the Blue and White while is projected to receive Likud 33. The overall bloc of religious and right wing parties supporting Netanyahu was put at 54 while those supporting Benny Gantz was put at 58. Ironically when the respondent were asked on who was best suited to become Prime Minister, 45% supported Netanyahu while 33% were for Gantz

Another poll by Walla news site, also predicted a deadlock with the Likud at 33 and Blue and White at 34. The survey also showed that 54% of the respondents were against a minority government led by Gantz even if it was the only way to stop Israel going to the elections for the first time, while 28% said they would support such a government. Just like in the Channel 13 poll, when the respondent were asked on who was best suited to lead the government, 43% said Netanyahu while 35% were for Gantz.

Troubles Ahead for Gantz

However the better performance of the Blue and White as shown by the opinions polls could be at risk following the decision of Israel prosecutor to open criminal investigations on a company once headed by Gantz. The Fifth Dimension Cybersecurity company is being accused of signing a multi-million deal with Israel police without a public tender.

Although Gantz is not a suspect, he oversaw the company until it went bankrupt. He has, however, denied any wrong doing saying “ It all sounds like political pressure to get this thing on the public agenda. I am totally at ease. This was checked in the past and no criminal suspicion was found.”

Many Leftist commentators have seen the prosecutor’s move as an attempt to harm Gantz campaigns . Among those who are seeking to capitalize on the accusations for political mileage is Netanyahu who declared that the Blue and Whites can no longer talk about clean governance. “Benny Gantz and the Fifth Dimension company he led are the subject of a serious criminal investigation for misleading the police,” he said.

With the elections being just days away this mudslinging could as well help turn the tide against the Blues and Whites under Gantz.New polls released early today by channel 12 and Kan have showed Likud pulling ahead of the Blues and Whites for the first time in what many believe could be as a result of the recent accusations against a company once associated with Gantz.

Polls Are Shifting Daily

According to the poll, Likud went up by 1 digit to 34 , while Blue and White went down to 33. Almost Similar results were projected by Kan poll which showed Likud at 35 and Blue and White at 34.

The Channel 12 poll further showed that a pro-Netanyahu coalition of Likud and right wing parties, would have 57 seats in the Knesset , while a coalition of Blue and White and left wing political parties would give Gantz 50 seats. But the results still show a stalemate since  the required number of seats to form a government is 61.

One way of coming out out of the impasse, would be the formation of a unity government. But forming such a government will be a complex task. Although Gantz has expressed his willingness to form a unity government with Likud , he has maintained that he wouldn’t do so if Netanyahu remains as the Likud party leader.

“He is going to go to trial . Imagine that while he is preparing for trial with a battery of lawyer on important issues from his personal point of view , and then the chief of staff wants to hold a very urgent discussion at night on a matter of security.” Gantz told Channel 13.

Gantz could as well garner enough members to form a government if he accepts the support of the Joint List Alliance which is predominantly Arab. The leader of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, has committed to offer him support on condition that he denounces certain elements of Israel-Palestine peace plan such as the transfer of Arabs Israeli towns to a Palestinian state. Gantz has however rejected the offer saying “ I will not sit with the joint list and I do not need their support.”

According to the latest opinion polls, by Channel 12 Joint List is likely to get 13 seat in the Knesset. With the same poll predicting 50 seats for Blue and White and its allies, support by the Joint List would push the number seats to 64, three seats more than the 61 required to form a majority government.

Nevertheless with another impasse looming, Netanyahu and Gantz will have to put their personal ambitions aside and put the interest of the country first. For one year now Israel has been without a functioning government. This is likely to continue if no party wins enough votes to form a government.

In such a situation, instead of the country going into a fourth election, Netanyahu will have to step down to allow for the formation of a new government. After all, his corruption trial starts just two weeks after the elections.