Election in Israel ends in stalemate

After the snap election in Israel early results point to a deadlock between Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party and his challenger Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party - meaning that the formation of a government will be just as difficult as it was after the last elections in April. But Netanyahu's position is weaker than it was the last time round, commentators say.

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Die Presse (AT) /

Thirteen years in power is enough

Israel's democracy needs a change of government, Die Presse comments:

“Netanyahu is still in power for now. Who knows what he will come up with next? Maybe he'll remain indispensable if an international crisis breaks out. A war against Iran seems more likely than ever at this point. Nevertheless: Benjamin 'Houdini' Netanyahu has never before had this much trouble getting his head out of the noose. And when all is said and done it would probably be a good thing for the country if he manages to escape yet again. Netanyahu has been prime minister for ten years in a row, and in power for 13 years in total. That's enough. What Israel needs now is a purifying change of government.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Unworthy of a democracy

NRC Handelsblad sees quite different reasons for why Netanyahu must go:

“Despite all the votes, one has to ask whether Netanyahu should not have had to resign in February of this year, when he was accused of corruption in three investigations. The prime minister is doing everything he can to stay in office because he can't be sent to jail while he is governing the country. This attitude is unworthy of a prime minister of a democratic country, and a defeat for the Israeli constitutional state. One of Netanyahu's predecessors, Ehud Olmert, resigned around a decade ago when he came under suspicion of fraud. Now too, the law should take its course.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Shift to the right at the Palestinians' expense

Whether Netanyahu stays or goes, the vote testifies to a clear shift in the country's politics, Le Temps notes:

“The shift to the right in Israeli politics is undeniable. If the position were free, Netanyahu's 'leftist' rival General Benny Gantz would have been a perfect candidate for the prime minister's own Likud party. This election clearly shows that the settlement policy and the potential annexation of the West Bank are now part and parcel of Israel's political consensus. Tuesday's vote may well mark the end of the indestructible 'Bibi'. But what it signals for sure is the end of a Palestinian state. Today the two-state solution is nothing but a destroyed dream.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Is the Netanyahu era over?

Netanyahu's gamble with new elections didn't pay off, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung's Israel correspondent Alexandra Föderl-Schmid:

“Netanyahu is in the same situation as in April, when the only party he could form a government with was that of Avigdor Lieberman. In fact the situation is even worse now than it was then because Lieberman's party has won more votes. Lieberman is once more in the role of kingmaker. And if he sticks to his announced plan of supporting a Blue-White-Likud unity government, and if Gantz also refuses to join a government with the current prime minister, then Netanyahu's era will come to an end.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Lieberman as the kingmaker

Netanyahu has no viable options, Jerusalem correspondent Giordano Stabile concurs in La Stampa:

“According to two of the three accredited surveys, the White-Blue alliance of the big challenger Benny Gantz is even one point ahead of Likud. ... Netanyahu has no chance of forming a majority aside from teaming up with his former ally Lieberman. However, that possibility already seemed to have been ruled out after the impasse of April 9 and is all the more unlikely today given that the leader of the party of the Russian [and Eastern European] immigrants had already agreed on a pact with Gantz even before the voting started.”

Gândul (RO) /

Hatred and brazen lies

Gândul looks at Netanyahu's last-ditch attempts to secure votes:

“King Bibi went into battle with his tried-and-tested armour: telling outrageous lies, spreading hate and fear that an Israel without his leadership would disappear. On his Instagram account, the image of a Palestinian flag is projected onto a skyscraper in Tel Aviv with the message: 'If you don't, that's how it will end!' ... He humiliated his main rival, Benny Gantz, claiming that the latter has no authority among the world leaders, and only he, Netanyahu, can keep the extraordinary dialogue with Donald Trump going.”

The Guardian (GB) /

The Palestinians lose out either way

None of the larger political groups in Israel has set the goal of improving the situation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, Palestinian author Raja Shehadeh laments in The Guardian:

“There is growing awareness here that Israel's international campaign to demonise criticism of its colonial policies as a form of antisemitism is succeeding. And there is no hope to be found in Israel: none of the parties contesting the elections on Tuesday are talking about the occupation or proposing how to end it. Instead they are competing to see who can promise the most to the settlers. ... For whoever gets elected in Israel this week, it will make no difference to our future in this land.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

A parliament of contradictions

The Wiener Zeitung asks how peaceful coexistence could ever be possible in Israeli politics:

“There are the ultra-orthodox Jews, who've been present in the Knesset from the start thanks to their parties' many seats, and who, like the arch-enemy Iran itself, don't recognise Israel's right to exist. The religious parties are necessary for forming a majority, which is why they frequently participate in governments. There, they exercise restraint in day-to-day politics while ensuring that their voters continue to enjoy privileges. And while Netanyahu develops extensive annexation plans in the West Bank, members of the Arab party Balad, whose members make a point of meeting the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, also sit in the Knesset.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

Despite everything the model works

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, visiting scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, takes a different view. He writes in Svenska Dagbladet:

“It's a small miracle how many different groups with radically different lifestyles come together here. ... Jewish and Arab Israelis, secular people and Haredim (often referred to as 'ultra-Orthodox Jews') ... Few places in the world have such a broad and unlikely mix of people. ... So in light of all this how is it that Israel works relatively well as a society and as a state? ... The entire Israeli social model is a compromise solution. ... Israel will continue to be both secular and religious for the foreseeable future.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Who is David and who Goliath?

Israeli journalist Jossi Klein Halevi explains in Gazeta Wyborcza that Israel's policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians are based on fear of Iran:

“It surprises me that the West talks about Israel's dilemma but forgets that Israel is in the Middle East, and that this is not just about the Palestinians and us. Iran is omnipresent - apart from on the West Bank, because we control it. The Israelis know that they are Goliath in their dealings with the Palestinians, while the Palestinians are David. But if you look at the bigger picture you'll see that the Palestinians, the Arab states and Iran are Goliath, while Israel is David. The Palestinian state won't rise up in a vacuum. Which could mean that Iran is standing just around the next corner.”

The Observer (GB) /

High time for a change of government

This is a chance to banish Benjamin Netanyahu to the opposition, The Observer stresses:

“Avigdor Lieberman, whose secular Yisrael Beiteinu party may hold the balance of power, wants a national unity government. So does Gantz, but only one that excludes the current prime minister. That's entirely reasonable. Netanyahu's ugly brand of rightwing politics has done serious damage. He has no good answers for the challenges facing Israel. Others may do better. This is the moment to bid bye-bye to Bibi. Awash in corruption allegations, he needs to spend more time with his lawyers.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Gantz is a pro now

Challenger Benny Gantz is taking a cleverer approach than he did last time, Jerusalem correspondent Giordano Stabile comments in La Stampa:

“Gantz's strategy is the same as it was in the April 9 elections. But in the five months since then he's quickly picked up the politician's trade. He's learned to stave off surprise attacks - a speciality of Netanyahu's - and attract the support of disappointed Likud voters. His goal is one additional seat, which would mean President Reuven Rivlin would task him with forming a government even if the centre-right coalition secures a majority of votes.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Little hope of peace

Even if the opposition wins and new peace talks begin they stand little chance of success, Sydsvenskan fears:

“Clearly the Palestinians are unable to unite. And without Palestinian unity it's hard to see what progress peace talks can make. The terrorist organisation Hamas, whose declared long-term goal is to wipe Israel off the map, rules in Gaza. And there's nothing new in the West Bank, where the crippled, corrupt Palestinian Authority government is at the mercy of Israel. The elections in Israel can't change any of that, regardless of their outcome.”