Benjamin Netanyahu to return as Israel Prime Minister after far right surge

Exit polls suggest veteran Likud politician will be able to form coalition with support of ‘Religious Zionism’, which plans major changes.

Israelis were voting in their fifth election in just under four years [Amir Cohen/Reuters]
By Orly Halpern

By Orly Halpern – Updated at 0713 EAT on Wednesday 2 Nov 20222

Lydd (Lod), Israel – At the Lydd (Lod) branch of the Arab-Jewish Hadash party, six activists sat in a semicircle of plastic chairs watching the exit polls of the fifth Israeli election in just under four years on the large TV screen on the wall.

Benjamin Netanyahu – Photo by T Abayov

The three older men smoked water pipes as they waited patiently to hear whether Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been prime minister longer than anyone else in Israel but is now on trial for corruption, and the Palestinian-hating hardliner, Itamar Ben-Gvir, would be the ones to form the country’s next government.

The numbers rolled out and the good news was that their slate, Hadash-Ta’al, had made it over the threshold to get into parliament, known as the Knesset, and would probably get four seats.

But the tally gave Netanyahu’s bloc a majority, with an expected 61 or 62 of the 120 Knesset seats, enough to form a government.


Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s centrist bloc was projected to get 54-55 seats. And the anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-Palestinian, homophobic ‘Religious Zionism’ slate, whose leaders advocate undermining the Israeli justice system, creating loyalty tests for Palestinian citizens, and expelling those deemed ‘distests for Palestinian citizens, and expelling those deemed ‘disloyal’, looked set to become Netanyahu’s main partner. The far-right group is projected to win at least 14 seats compared with six in the last elections.

“The extremism in this country is rising,” said Anwar Ghazal, 53, as he watched the screen. “It’s dangerous for the Arabs. That’s what we tried to explain in all our campaigning, they need to vote. Netanyahu is as dangerous. The situation is not good. It’s terrible.”

Supporters of far-right Israeli legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir celebrated as exit polls showed a surge in support [Oren Ziv/AP Photos]

“I expected this,” said Ihab Abukrubeia, 30, looking at Ben-Gvir’s people dancing on the TV screen, waving Israeli flags as big as people. “I think the majority of the Jews here are extremist right-wing. That’s why we get Likud and Ben-Gvir with so many seats.”

Palestinians are not alone in their fear of Ben-Gvir and the changes he hopes to make.

“If the results we are seeing this evening hold true, the coalition that will form the next government is poised to propose a series of reforms that would seek to politicise the judiciary and weaken the checks and balances that exist between the branches of government and serve as fundamental components of Israeli democracy,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.

Their plans include removing the offence of fraud and breach of trust — for which Netanyahu is on trial — from the criminal code, stripping the High Court of Justice of its ability to strike down unconstitutional laws and giving parliamentarians control over the selection of judges.

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