Netanyahu in final push to hold on to power in Israeli election

Hit by criticism within his own Likud party, prime minister goes on media blitz

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has launched a last-minute media blitz to convince voters he should stay in office as he continues to lose ground to his main challenger.

The last polls in the election campaign, published on Friday, suggest that Yitzhak Herzog's Zionist Union party was continuing to creep ahead of Mr Netanyahu's Likud, with its two-seat lead a week ago doubling to four.

Under Israeli election rules, no polls can published in the last four days of the campaign until exit polls are released at 10pm on Tuesday.

The Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot projected the Zionist Union coalition winning 26 of the 120 seats in parliament, against 22 for Likud.


A second poll, published jointly by the Jerusalem Post and Maariv dailies, showed the same four-seat gap between the parties, with Zionist Union winning 25 against 21 for Likud. Both gave third place to the Arab-Israeli Joint List with 13 seats.

Mr Herzog and Mr Netanyahu are now battling for a handful of seats that will determine who will lead the country.

Dependent on centre

Despite his party trailing in polls, under Israel's electoral system Mr Netanyahu may still find it easier to form a right-leaning coalition and stay in power. Much depends on how two centrist parties, led by Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon, decide to back.

As parties entered the finale of a closely fought campaign, both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Herzog used interviews to reject suggestions they could alternate power in a national unity government.

With evidence that Mr Netanyahu has failed to inspire his political base, the media strategy seems designed to alarm wavering Likud voters to turn out on Tuesday.

Following mounting criticism from within Likud over the campaign, Mr Netanyahu has granted a series of interviews to the Israeli media, in which he has conceded that he risks losing the election.

Supporters of Israel’s right- wing parties also plan to rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday in an event that organisers have said they hope Mr Netanyahu will attend.

Crucial last days

With the relative balance between the two main blocs of political parties from which a coalition might be formed still so close, the last four days of the campaign are regarded as crucial – not least in an electorate where upwards of 20 per cent are expected to decided who to back during this period.

Mr Netanyahu has continued to pursue his strategy of warning that an Israel without him at the helm would be in danger.

"I think our security is at great risk because there is a real danger that we could lose this election," he told the Jerusalem Post in an attempt to reverse of drift of voters away from Likud.

“There is no privilege now to vote for other parties,” Mr Netanyahu added.

In his interview with Israel’s Channel 2, he repeated the claims he has made in recent days that “tens of millions of dollars” had been channelled from “European states” and from “left wingers overseas” to prevent his re-election.

“There are governments that oppose me and want to bring down the right,” he said.

– (Guardian service)