Oct 19, 2022 - World

What to watch with less than 2 weeks until Israel's elections

Yair Lapid and Benjamin Netanyahu

Yair Lapid and Benjamin Netanyahu. Photos: Sean Gallup/Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

With less than two weeks before Israel's fifth election in four years, the polls show former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just shy of a majority — meaning his hopes of returning to power hinge on the final push to rally his base.

Why it matters: As opposition leader, Netanyahu is campaigning while on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. If his right-wing bloc gets 61 seats in the Knesset, he may proceed with legislative efforts to suspend his trial.

  • Two extreme-right candidates who are part of Netanyahu's bloc have already announced that if Netanyahu forms the next coalition, they will propose laws to make it harder to prosecute politicians for corruption, possibly ending Netanyahu's trial.

The other side: Yair Lapid, who became caretaker prime minister in July, doesn't actually have to win the election to keep his job — at least for several months. If Lapid's bloc falls short of a majority but keeps Netanyahu from reaching 61 seats, he'll almost certainly remain in office until a new election can be held.

State of play: Both leading candidates are trying to energize an electorate that has grown tired of continuous elections and largely tuned out the race over the summer and during the High Holidays.

  • The polls have hardly budged for months. They show Netanyahu's bloc a few seats ahead of Lapid's but still just short of a majority.
  • Both campaigns say the race is really starting now.

What to watch: Netanyahu’s main effort is to get supporters of his Likud party who skipped the most recent elections to return to the polls. He says that would be enough for him to win a majority.

  • One of Lapid's main goals will be to raise the turnout among Israel's Arab minority, which is currently projected to be the lowest in years at around 40%. If the turnout really is that low, it boosts Netanyahu's chances of winning 61 seats.
  • Lapid will also want to ensure his Yesh Atid party, which is polling second to Likud with around 25 seats, remains the dominant force in the anti-Netanyahu bloc.
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