(Jerusalem, Israel) — On March 2nd, Israel will hold our third round of national elections in the past twelve months. Are we headed towards another stalemate, or a political earthquake? Here are five things to watch and pray over:
- New polls suggest that Netanyahu’s Likud party has pulled even or slightly ahead. Is this is the beginning of a trend? Will Likud gain momentum between now and Monday? Keep in mind, most polls in 2020 have shown that Blue & White, the party founded by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (and two other former IDF chiefs of staff, plus Knesset Member Yair Lapid), maintaining a lead over Likud. No one really knows how it will play out. Everyone here expects another stalemate. Some are even talking of a 4th election.
- That said, keep your eye on former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman — though he used to be Netanyahu’s closest advisor, Liberman declared this week that his old boss “can no longer be prime minister” and that “Netanyahu has been in power for too long and has lost the instincts and the motivation to work and do what is necessary.” As the head of the Israel Beitenu party (Israel Our Home), Liberman and his colleagues will likely win between 7 and 10 seats on Monday. That makes him poised to be either a king-maker, or a king-slayer. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can build a governing political coalition without persuading Liberman to join them. Neither proved persuasive in the last two rounds. Is Liberman now signaling that he’s preparing make a decision and break towards Gantz? That could set into motion a political earthquake, and the beginning of a post-Netanyahu era. Stay tuned.
- Meanwhile, we’re all asking: How will the election be affected by the fact that Netanyahu’s corruption trial will begin very soon — on March 17th? Many fans of Netanyahu in the West dismiss the charges as a political “witch hunt.” Perhaps, and right-wing voters may be now beginning to rally to Netanyahu’s defense at the polls, trying to build Likud’s number. That said, it’s worth keeping three things in mind. First, Netanyahu was indicted by his own hand-chosen Attorney General, not a political enemy. Second, never has a sitting Israeli premier ever been put on trial. We are entering uncharted territory. Third, the stakes are high. The charges are serious. Netanyahu faces real legal jeopardy. Like it or not, in the next year or so, Netanyahu could actually be convicted on the bribery and corruption charges.
- Legally, Netanyahu deserves to be considered innocent unless he is proven guilty. Politically, however, things are getting complicated for him. Some 58% of Israelis in a recent poll said that Netanyahu should resign rather than try to serve as Prime Minister while defending himself in criminal trials. Another recent poll found that 54% of Israelis say a trial will harm Netanyahu’s ability to serve as Prime Minister.
- At the same time, tensions in the region are heating up, despite the recent roll out of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” Terrorists in Gaza fired more than 80 rockets at Israel in the past 72 hours. Other attacks in and around Jerusalem have been spiking this month. Iran’s leadership has been fomenting terror and chaos throughout the region and remainl determined to build nuclear weapons and annihilate the Jewish State. Tensions on the Lebanon and Syrian borders are building, as well. Meanwhile, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination — Sen. Bernie Sanders — has a history of hostility towards Israel and seeks to fundamentally change (read: undermine) the U.S.-Israeli strategic alliance.
Israel can ill afford to go without a stable, solid, fully operational government much longer. Please pray for peace on all of our borders, and pray the Lord will show mercy when it comes to the result of these elections and coalition negotiations. Most Israelis would like to see a broad-based “national unity” government. I’d like to see that, as well.
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