Israel election: Palestinian dismay as Netanyahu edges closer to shocking victory

Israel election: Palestinian dismay as Netanyahu edges closer to shocking victory
Palestinians have expressed fears that Benjamin Netanyahu's potential return as Israel's Prime Minister could lead to further oppression.
6 min read
02 November, 2022

The latest poll figures in Israel's fifth election in under four years show former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu edging closer to assembling a right-wing religious coalition in government. 

"The main outcome of this election is the proliferation of the fascist right in the ranks of the Israeli public," Aida-Touma Sulieman told The New Arab. Sulieman is a member of the Israel parliament (known as the Knesset) from the Al-Jabha or the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality and is the number three candidate on the joint ticket of Al-Jabha and the Arab Movement for Renewal party. Her slot in the Knesset is, for now, secure.

Ayman Odeh and Aida-Touma Sulieman from the Al-Jabha or the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality at the party's HQ in ShafaAmr
Ayman Odeh and Aida-Touma Sulieman from the Al-Jabha or the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality at the party's HQ in ShafaAmr [photography by Ibrahim Husseini, The New Arab's Jerusalem correspondent]

With 86 per cent of the vote accounted for, Netanyahu's Likud party has 32 seats, PM Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid has 24, and Religious Zionism of religious extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir has 14. 

Read the full story by our Jerusalem correspondent here

Earlier today, Netanyahu said he has received a "huge vote of confidence" from voters and declaring that his right-wing camp was on the cusp of a shocking election win.

"We are on the brink of a very big victory," a smiling Netanyahu told cheering supporters at his Likud party election headquarters.

Netanyahu is allied with far-right extremist settler Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose Religious Zionism bloc is on course to become the third-largest party. 

Ben-Gvir is a former member of Kach, a group on Israeli and US terrorist watchlists.

He regularly led Israeli settlers mobs into the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem. 

Whoever emerges as the eventual winner, Palestinians expect no let-up in Israel's policies of violence, expulsions, and settlement expansion against them. 

11:36 PM
The New Arab Staff

This concludes The New Arab's live coverage for today of Israel's elections. Follow The New Arab on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and developments from Palestine and across the Arab world.

11:12 PM
Nick McAlpin

In other news: UK has 'no plans' to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's new UK government said on Wednesday it is not planning to move its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, just weeks after the previous premier said she was reviewing the mission's location.

"There are no plans to move the UK embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv," a UK government spokesperson told The New Arab.

Separately, Sunak's spokesperson said "there are no current plans to change the location of our embassy" when asked if the Tory leader's administration was still pursuing a plan to transfer the mission to Jerusalem.

It comes on the 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a highly controversial 1917 statement in which the UK government said it "views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

Live Story
4:33 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Netanyahu on the cusp of victory with 87 percent of the vote counted

Veteran Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on the cusp of returning to power on Wednesday, with initial election results showing his alliance with the extreme right taking a narrow lead.

With around 87 percent of the vote counted, according to the Central Elections Committee, initial results put Netanyahu's right-wing bloc ahead after the country's fifth election in four years.

Addressing supporters who chanted "King of Israel", Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader, said his Likud party had received "a huge vote of confidence".

Supporters of far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir in Sheikh Jarrah
Supporters of far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir showed up on election day in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, where dozens are at risk of forced displacement [photography by Ibrahim Husseini, The New Arab's Jerusalem correspondent]

The Religious Zionism bloc of Itamar Ben-Gvir has made major gains and was emerging as the third-largest party, behind Yesh Atid.

The controversial Ben-Gvir heralded the party's showing as a "great achievement", which is expected to hand the right-wing a majority in the 120-seat parliament. 

Supporters of Ben-Gvir have been spotted in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood in Jerusalem, where Ben-Gvir regularly led Israeli settlers mobs.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid - the architect of the coalition which ousted Netanyahu last year - cautioned that "nothing is decided".

"(We) will wait patiently... for the final results," he told crowds backing his centrist Yesh Atid party.

4:07 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran official says Netanyahu return would create new challenge for US and Israel: media

An adviser to Iran's Revolutionary Guards' chief commander said on Wednesday that a return of Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to power would create a new challenge for the United States and Israel, said the semi-official Ilna news agency.

"Netanyahu's return to power will weaken the democratic government in America and will be the beginning of a new challenge for both Israel and Washington," Hossein Taleb said. 

2:01 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel's Lapid pulls out of COP27 after election blow

Israel's caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday cancelled plans to attend the UN climate conference in Egypt next week, as initial election results showed a rival bloc winning power.

"President (Isaac) Herzog will be representing Israel at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh," the premier's office said.

Lapid had been scheduled to fly to the Red Sea resort on Monday to attend the global climate summit.

More than 90 heads of state and government, including US President Joe Biden, are set to converge on the resort between 6 and 18 November.

Benjamin Netanyahu illustration
Benjamin Netanyahu appears likely to return to power in Israel [Illustration by Emad Hajjaj]

Lapid's replacement by Israel's head of state, whose role is largely ceremonial, comes as voters await the final results of Tuesday's election.

Initial results put Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid party behind former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, according to the Central Elections Committee.

Last month Lapid said the "climate crisis presents us with exceptional opportunities" for the Israeli economy.

His predecessor Naftali Bennett met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm el-Sheikh last year.

12:11 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli troops shoot dead Palestinian who rammed car into soldier

Meanwhile in the Occupied West Bank,  Israeli troops shot and killed a 54-year-old Palestinian man on Wednesday at a checkpoint west of Ramallah after he rammed and injured an Israeli soldier with his car, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

The Israeli military said troops opened fire after the man approached the checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Israeli city of Mod'in and attempted to run over an officer with his car before getting out and attacking the officer with an axe.

It did not confirm his death but Palestinian officials said they were informed by the Israeli liaison office that the man, identified as 54-year-old Habbas Rayyan, had been killed.

Read the full story here.

10:41 AM
The New Arab Staff

Who is Itamar Ben-Gvir, the powerful extreme-right leader poised for a major election victory?

The Israeli elections have seen a big win for far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir, long-seen as a pariah in Israeli politics due to his Kahanist connections.

Known for defending Israeli terrorists, chanting slogans of hate against Arabs and Palestinians, and leading settler marches through the Palestinian neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem, Ben-Gvir represents a particularly extreme version of Israeli oppression.

As an attorney, he’s defended a notorious list of Jewish extremists involved in terrorism and hate crimes, including a group of settlers who set fire to a Palestinian house, killing an 18-month-old baby and both his parents.

Elected to parliament in April 2021, Ben-Gvir heads the Jewish Power party and has spent years campaigning for the extreme right.

 Here is a profile on the controversial far-right leader who could play a kingmaker role in coalition talks.

10:25 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Lebanon PM claims US will protect maritime deal with Israel

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters by phone on Wednesday that US guarantees would protect a maritime border deal with Israel should Israel's conservative former premier Benjamin Netanyahu win a majority in elections.

Netanyahu had threatened to "neutralise" the agreement, which came into force last week after years of indirect US-brokered talks and set out the sea boundary between the two enemy states.

Read the full story here.