Netanyahu poised for an underwhelming victory as Israel heads to the right

Benyamin Netanyahu is predicted to win the election with a reduced majority Photo: Reuters

Unless the seas suddenly boil and the ground unexpectedly opens up beneath them, Israelis will re-elect Benyamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister today.

A political earthquake is not on the cards; yet the ground is shifting with a jolt to the right.

Bibi will win but there will be no ringing endorsement. His campaign, in which he has billed himself as the strong man to defend a nation’s interests, has not been a success.

His own party – itself an alliance with a partner to the right – will win perhaps 35 seats. That’s fewer than it held in the last parliament, and far short of the 61 needed to form a simple majority.

So he’ll need coalition partners; and the new kids on the block are from the even-further right.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has strong support among West Bank settlers Credit: Reuters

Jewish Home, led by his former aide Naftali Bennett, has played on Israelis’ dissatisfaction with what some feel was a premature ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza.

It has garnered massive support among settlers who live on land in the West Bank supposedly earmarked for a Palestinian state.

With a number of contentious settlement developments on the starting block, the new Israeli government looks set to steer an even more hazardous collision course with its Palestinian neighbours.

"The majority of Israelis are voting for settlements and an apartheid system at the expense of peace and the two-state solution," says leading Palestianian activist Dr Mustafa Bargouti.

Thousands of polling stations opened at 0700 local time on Tuesday Credit: Reuters

More risky still, according to Netanyahu’s opponents this will lead to greater international isolation.

He will of course look for coalition partners from the centre, but that might make his coalition unwieldy as he tries to reconcile their competing demands.

Still, at some stage in the early hours of tomorrow, a beaming Bibi will arrive at his party headquarters to acknowledge victory. Privately though, he might well wear a frown. His problems are only beginning.