In the head-to-head race between the two of them, the smaller parties have faded into the background. Even the social democratic Labour party, once proudly the party of the people, is languishing well below the ten percent mark in the polls. The religious and ultra-right parties, the left-wing Meretz party and the Arab minority are facing even worse results.

Divided opposition

The latter took 13 seats in 2015 through the united list, becoming the country's third-largest faction. A dispute over the ranking of candidates caused the alliance to split into two parts. Taal-Hadash – led by former Arafat advisor Ahmed Tibi, the most prominent Arab-Israeli politician, and left-wing civil rights lawyer Ayman Odeh – is now running separately from Balad-Raam, a union between national protagonists and the Islamic movement.

Election poster in Tel Aviv showing Israel′s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Donald Trump (photo: Getty Images/AFP)
Election gift for Benjamin Netanyahu: last week U.S. President Donald Trump signed a declaration in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognising the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Israel conquered the area in 1967 during the Syrian war and annexed it in 1981

This division has created enormous political apathy among Palestinians with Israeli passports, says Amjad Shbita, co-director of Sikkuy, a Jewish-Arab association for civil equality. "They have lost hope that they can change anything by voting." The only way to counter the right-wing agitation is to stand united. The Nation-State Bill pushed by the Netanyahu government has made them feel even more alienated from the majority of Israeli society.

Recently, the Prime Minister made it known that in fact Israel is not a state for all its citizens but rather "the nation-state of the Jewish people – and only them". But for Palestinian voters the Blue and White coalition, which rejects a partnership with the Arabs, is "no real alternative", according to Shbita. Their voter turnout is likely to be accordingly low.

Of the 14 parties that hope to gain seats in the Knesset, at least five are polling just below the 3.25 percent threshold. Their bids to gain attention have hence become all the more shrill. Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, who is running for the New Right party, sprayed himself with a perfume called "Fascism" in a seemingly ironic campaign ad. Meanwhile, Moshe Feiglin, a Likud renegade, and his far-right splinter party Sehut (Identity) is campaigning for the construction of the Third Temple, as well as for the legalisation of marijuana.

How they fare in the election could decide whether the right-wing bloc or the centre-left camp will win the government majority of 61 mandates. Since Gantz rejects the idea of a coalition with Arab groups, in the event of his defeat, Netanyahu could become Prime Minister once again. Unless there is a large coalition between Blue White and Likud, but without "Bibi".

Inge Gunther

© 2019

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

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Comments for this article: To be or not to be – the Netanyahu question

I don't think you are doing good service to critical thinking by using the word "democracy" with explicit narrowness. You are not encouraging readers to question the fundamentals. It is as if they are taboo. How come that apartheid, racism, occupation, decades of oppression, backing of Western powers, assassinations, etc are not included in "democracy"?

Nadeem05.04.2019 | 13:55 Uhr