Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s a former Israeli prime minister, is on the verge of a dramatic return after partial results showed that he was certain to win a majority with the far right’s help in parliament.
Mr Netanyahu’s said, “We are very close to a big victory”
Mr Netanyahu’s bloc is all set to win 65 out of 120 seats, with 86% of votes from the general election counted. He said to jubilant supporters in Jerusalem, “We are near to a big victory”.
Although, he will be dependent on the assistance of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party.
Its leaders, Itamar Bezalel Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, have gained infamy for advocating the deportation of “disloyal” politicians or civilians and using anti-Arab rhetoric.
Mr Ben-Gvir was a supporter of the late, ultra-nationalist Meir Kahane, explicitly racist, whose organisation was prohibited in Israel and by the United States designated as a terrorist group. Mr Ben-Gvir himself has been sentenced of provocation to racism and supporting a terrorist organisation.
Mr Ben-Gvir, last month hit the headlines when after being targeted with a stone thrown by Palestinians. He was filmed taking out a gun, while visiting the flashpoint mainly Arab Sheikh Jarrah district of occupied East Jerusalem, and shooting the culprits, calling for police.
Ben-Gvir: “Will work for all of Israel, including those people who hate him”
On Wednesday, Mr Ben-Gvir while speaking to reporters, promised that he’ll “work for all of Israel, even for those who hate him”.
After publication of exit polls on Tuesday night, Religious Zionism supporters gathered in Sheikh Jarrah, throwing stones and shouting taunts towards Palestinian areas.
Mr Netanyahu along with his wife Sara, arrived at his Likud party’s election night on Wednesday venue at 03:00 local time (01:00 GMT) to thunderous applause.
He told his cheering supporters, “We have won a large vote of confidence from the Israel people”.
Hours before, when the exit polls estimated that Mr Netanyahu’s bloc would win 61 or 62 seats, the room had been full of celebration as people waved flags and chanted his nickname, Bibi and also jumped up and down. One man constantly blew ram’s horn, or a shofar, a ritual instrument that is used at times of special significance by some Jewish people.
Mr Netanyahu, one of the most controversial Israel political figures
However, current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, at his party’s camp in Tel Aviv, told his followers that “nothing” was still decided and his centre-left Yesh Atid party would wait for the ultimate results to come.
Mr Netanyahu who’s 73 years old, is one of the most controversial political figures of Israel, adored by Likud’s grassroots supporters but loathed by many on the centre and left.
He wholly supports Israel’s settlement-building in the West Bank, which has been occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. Under international law, settlements there are considered as illegal, although Israel disputes this.
He opposes the formation of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as a solution to the Israel-Palestinian dispute. A formula which also had support of most of the international community, also of the Biden administration in the US.
Likud stands to be the greatest party, according to the partial results
Mr Netanyahu is also recently on trial for alleged fraud, bribery and breaching of trust, charges that he denies fiercely. His possible partners have said, in a Likud-led coalition government, that in a move which would bring a pause to his trial, they would reform the law.
Likud, according to the partial results, stands to be the greatest party, commanding a majority with the support of religious and nationalist parties, with 32 seats.
Yesh Atid, which led the coalition last year which brought down Mr Netanyahu in elections, is predicted to win 24 seats. Religious Zionism is seen to have won 14 seats, making it the third greatest party.
Religious Zionism supporter, Julian said “It will be better now”, in Jerusalem at the party’s venue. He added, “When Religious Zionism politician Itamar Ben-Gvir will be the minister of public security, it will be better as he’ll bring back security to the Israel people. That’s really very important”.
Political scientist Gayil Talshir, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, however warned that “Israel is on its way to become Orban’s Hungary, if the exit polls “reflect the real results”, currently branded by the EU an “electoral autocracy”.
If Mr Netanyahu can get a majority, it will avert the prospect in just four years of a sixth election after analysts predicted deadlock, he added.
Also Read: Israel election: Benjamin Netanyahu is bidding to return to power