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By: Michel (Mikado) Warschawski

It was believed he would be in power for eternity.  In any case he, his wife and his son Yair were certain: Binyamin Netanyahu and the post of Israeli prime minister seemed inseparable. In power for 11 consecutive years (after an unsuccessful attempt between 1996 and 1999), he behaved increasingly like a monarch, systematically remodelling the regime to claim maximum power to the detriment of other institutions, and in particular the judiciary.

An excellent communicator, a clever manipulator and a liar like his friend Trump. It may have all been too much: the majority of Israeli citizens seem exhausted from his brutal speech that targets all those who question his decisions as leftists, Arab-lovers and terrorists.

Led by former military chiefs of staff, the main opposition list, Blue and White, had little to offer in the face of Netanyahu's political and economic choices. The list therefore focused on denouncing the incumbent prime minister's systematic incitement to hatred.  Apparently this choice was correct: Blue and White managed to gain more Knesset seats than the Likud - 32 versus 31 (out of 120 total). In addition, Netanyahu has managed to alienate Avigdor Lieberman, his former chief of staff and leader of the Israel Beitenu party, which doubled its Knesset seats to nine. Lieberman led an effective campaign on the need for a national unity government without the ultra-religious parties that are historically Netanyahu's allies. From the minute election results were announced Netanyahu went to work, trying to force the hand of the Blue and White leaders, who had undertaken not to make a coalition with Netanyahu if he was indicted for several cases of serious corruption. The indictments will not be long in coming.

A national unity government without Netanyahu. This eventuality is gaining increasing traction, but will require a long and hard battle against the Netanyahu family and its many unconditional supporters in Likud, for whom the priority remains the avoidance of a criminal trial and possible lengthy prison sentence.

The new Knesset is no less right-wing than the preceding one: 61 members are on the extreme right, although Lieberman refuses - for the moment - to add his nine seats to such a government of the right, continuing, as he promised throughout the election campaign, to work for a grand coalition between Likud and Blue and White.

On the left, Meretz retained its five seats and six seats are all that remains of the Labour Party. The Joint List returned to its 2015 high of 13 seats, despite a rate of abstention in the Arab-Palestinian electorate of over 50 percent. The United List thus became the third largest political force in the Knesset and in the event of a national unity government, it is Joint List head Ayman Odeh who should be the opposition leader.

After two elections in less than a year, we remain in the same place: What motivated Netanyahu by dissolving the Knesset was the passage of an immunity law that would protect him from prosecution. He failed. With these elections we enter the final phase of the Netanyahu regime and, eventually, a prison sentence for Israel’s absolute leader for almost two decades.


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