Can Bibi translate victory into government?
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THIRD TIME LUCKY

Can Bibi translate victory into government?

'It appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party will be the largest in the new Knesset and that he is the likeliest party leader to be asked to form a new government'.

Benjamin Netanyahu kisses his wife Sara as exit polls predict a Likud victory.
Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
Benjamin Netanyahu kisses his wife Sara as exit polls predict a Likud victory. Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

THE Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) hopes a new Israeli cabinet will “work constructively” to achieve the extradition of alleged child abuser Malka Leifer and that “those alleged to have interfered to prevent her extradition play no further part in the process”.

Israelis went to the polls for the third time in a year on Monday after elections last April and September failed to result in a government.

With around 93 per cent of votes counted on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud had around 35 seats, with his right-wing bloc appearing to have gained 58 seats, just shy of a majority.

Seven of those seats look to have been won by United Torah Judaism, led by Yaakov Litzman – whom police recommended be indicted for allegedly interfering in the Leifer case.

Ultra-Orthodox Shas had around 10 seats, with the religious right-wing Yamina sitting on about six seats.

Benny Gantz’s rival Blue and White party appears to have lost voter support after outpolling Likud last September, managing only 32 seats and leaving it with no obvious path to government.

Kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu had seven seats, as did Labor-Gesher-Meretz, with the predominantly Arab Joint List gaining 16.

“It appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party will be the largest in the new Knesset and that he is the likeliest party leader to be asked to form a new government,” ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin observed.

“As we saw during the visit of President [Reuven] Rivlin, there is immense interest in closer economic, academic and cultural ties between our two countries and it is critical for business confidence that a new, stable government is formed quickly.”

Ryvchin said that political stability and an end to the cycle of “constant elections and coalition wrangling” was also important for Israel to meet its security challenges, to deal with the Trump peace plan and to defeat political manoeuvres in the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

He added, “We hope now that the elections have been completed, the new cabinet will work constructively to achieve the extradition of Malka Leifer and that those alleged to have interfered to prevent Leifer’s extradition play no further part in the process.”

Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) president Jeremy Leibler noted that despite worries in Israel about coronavirus, the country recorded one of its highest voter turnouts in history.

“The ZFA congratulates the country for its commitment to the democratic process, and hopes that a coalition is formed quickly, so the government can effectively deal with the difficult challenges facing the state of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said, “The high turnout – and particularly the increasing voting rates among Israel’s minority population, reflecting an encouraging level of integration into mainstream national politics – shows the state of Israel’s democracy is still basically robust and healthy.”

Netanyahu’s electoral fortunes come despite the Prime Minister facing an upcoming corruption trial – where he is charged with three cases of fraud and breach of trust – beginning on March 17.

It is the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister will face criminal charges.

Gantz on Tuesday again ruled out joining a unity government under Netanyahu, telling reporters, “I won’t sit in a government under a person with three indictments.”

With the right-wing bloc just short of a majority, Likud MK Miki Zohar told Israel’s Radio 103 FM on Tuesday, “We are talking with more than one or two MKs from the centre-left … I believe that if we reach 60 votes we will form a government.”

Meanwhile, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett hailed Likud’s success as a win for plans to annex areas of the West Bank.

With TIMES OF ISRAEL

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