By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – Israel’s controversial ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies have won 61 seats, enough to form a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, election exit polls showed Tuesday.
Israelis were voting for the fifth time in less than four years amid political deadlock linked partly to scandals surrounding Netanyahu, who was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
It was unclear whether his victory would help end an extended crisis that had paralyzed the Jewish state’s political life for much of the past four years.
Netanyahu, on trial for corruption, would be able to battle the charges as prime minister, improving his chances of avoiding conviction or jail time, according to political experts.
Yet his opponents view the 73-year-old as “a grave threat” to Israel’s democratic institutions and the rule of law.
His legal battles contributed to a broader stalemate in Israel’s political system as Netanyahu was indicted on “bribery, fraud, and breach of trust” in 2019, charges he denies.
Yet despite the scandals, improving security on the streets and surging prices still topped the list of voter concerns, pollsters discovered.
The election campaign was triggered by defections from Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s ruling coalition of right-wing, liberal, and Arab parties.
Their policy differences were overshadowed by worries about the legal challenges facing Netanyahu. Critics say the veteran politician may want to influence the judiciary if he returns to power.
The next government “is poised to propose a series of reforms that would seek to politicize the judiciary and weaken checks and balances,” argued Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think tank.
Plesner warned that those checks and balances are needed “between the branches of government and serve as fundamental components of Israeli democracy.”
Syndicated columnist Douglas M. Bloomfield wrote in The Jerusalem Post newspaper didn’t that the prospect of Netanyahu “winning a sixth term” could complicate U.S.-Israel relations.
“He will have a serious American problem, both at the grassroots and in the White House” due to his skepticism about Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives, the columnist suggested recently.
And, “In a country trending farther to the right in recent elections, polls show him as the leading candidate but still lacking the coalition partners that could give him a majority,” Bloomfield added.
However, at least some Christian groups view Netanyahu in a more positive light, recalling his attempt to reach out to evangelicals and other believers supporting Israel.
In 2017, Prime Minister Netanyahu told an evangelical audience in Washington that they were Israel’s best friends in the world.
“When I say we have no greater friends than Christian supporters of Israel, I know you’ve always stood with us,” Netanyahu explained to a cheering crowd at Christians United for Israel’s annual conference in 2017.
“You stand with us because you stand with yourselves because we represent that common heritage of freedom that goes back thousands of years,” he said.
Netanyahu stressed that “America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than America. And Israel has no better friend in America than you.”
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