‘Collapse in support’ in traditional strongholds foiled Netanyahu election bid

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‘Collapse in support’ in traditional strongholds foiled Netanyahu election bid

New analysis released by BICOM shows that right-wing parties lost out in cities amid anger from Ethiopian Jews

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanya speaks at the Likud headquarters on elections night in Tel Aviv, on September 18, 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanya speaks at the Likud headquarters on elections night in Tel Aviv, on September 18, 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX

Israeli election data has shown a drain in support for right-wingers in their traditional city strongholds and suggests that anger from Ethiopian Jews helped scupper Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition plans.

Newly-available analytics show what Middle East think-tank BICOM called “a collapse in support” for right-wing parties in key areas compared to Israel’s April election, and a “cumulative loss of support nationally for [Netanyahu’s] Likud”.

In April, a right-wing bloc comprising Likud, Kulanu and United Right won a combined 44 seats, while New Right and Zehut scooped 250,000 votes between them, despite neither meeting the threshold for the Knesset.

By comparison, Likud won just 31 seats in September, while Yamina – an amalgamation of various right-wing settler parties, won seven, meaning the bloc lost six seats in five months. BICOM described it as “significant”.

To compound the problems, data shows that support drained away in previous Likud strongholds such as Netanya, Bat Yam, Naharia, and Acre.

Furthermore, statisticians say reduced support was “noticeable” among the Ethiopian Jewish community, angered by the fatal shooting of an Ethiopian Israeli by an off-duty policeman, which sparked mass protests this summer.

Support for right-wingers also fell in southern Israel, which analysts said may be down to near-constant rocket fire from Gaza.

The election results still need to be certified next week, when Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will begin talks with party leaders aimed at creating a national unity government. Neither the right-wing nor the centre-left bloc has the working majority needed to form a coalition.

The first shot was fired this week by Netanyahu, who said any coalition with the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid would have to include his right-wing and strictly Orthodox partners, a condition flatly refused by Gantz.

Blue and White also said that while it was open to working with Likud, it could not form a government with it while Netanyahu was still party leader, owing to his legal problems. His pre-indictment hearing is set to be heard by judges in two weeks’ time.

It remains to be seen whether Likud will dump Netanyahu after more than a decade in charge, but the election data will tell senior party figures that his popular pulling power has waned.

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