Netanyahu rallies right wing in Jerusalem ahead of election

Israelis to vote in closely fought poll, with PM hoping to extend 10-year rule

Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Israeli voters his rightwing party, Likud, is in danger of losing its decade-long run in power, in a last-ditch effort to get supporters out to vote on the eve of elections on Tuesday.

Speaking at west Jerusalems historic Mehane Yehuda market, the Israeli prime minister, who this weekend said he would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if he won, complained of complacency among supporters.

Some of our people say everything is fine, its in your pocket, but its not, he said. Do you want a rightwing Likud government? Then it is imperative to go and vote Likud.

Bibi, Bibi! people shouted, squeezed into the narrow street filled with stalls selling dried fruit, herbs and tea, where he was speaking. Posters of Netanyahus face had been strung along the market.

Netanyahu has used similar tactics before, infamously in 2015, when he warned in an incendiary post on election day that a high turnout from Arab voters would threaten his partys grip. The rightwing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves, he said in comments largely condemned as being racist.

Netanyahus main rival, Benny Gantz, has focused his campaign on a series of damning corruption allegations against the prime minister. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli leaders main election contender, Benny Gantz, later accused Netanyahu of a Gevalt campaign, a Yiddish exclamation for shock or alarm.

Gantzhas presented himself as a unifying figure for the left, centre and right wing. He has focused his campaign on a series of damning corruption allegations against the prime minister, who faces the threat of indictment.

Formerly the chief of the army, Gantz dismissed Netanyahus rallying call on Monday: The right is not in danger, Netanyahu is in danger. It is not a security threat, but a legal one, he told Army Radio. While the attorney general has expressed his intention to begin an indictment process against Netanyahu after the election, the prime minister has dismissed the three cases against him as a witch-hunt.

The latest polls, released on Friday, showed only a marginal difference between Netanyahus Likud party and Blue and White, a new faction headed by Gantz. While Blue and White was ahead in some surveys, Likud was seen to be more likely to be able to form a coalition government through alliances with far-right and religious candidates in the Knesset, Israels parliament.

They include a group of radical activists called Jewish Power. One Jewish Power party member recently called for the expulsion of Arab citizens he said were not loyal to the state.

Another figure, Moshe Feiglin, a libertarian and former member of Likud but now running the Zehut party, has focused on cannabis legalisation and attracted support among secular youth.

However, his manifesto also calls for Israeli annexation of the entire occupied West Bank and for its forces to take control of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex where the Al-Aqsa mosque, Dome of the Rock, and Western Wall are located.

Sacred to Jews and Muslims, the site is administered by a Jordan-funded Islamic body under an extremely delicate agreement with Israel and has been the flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Feiglin has said he plans to build a Jewish synagogue there.

In a last-minute bid for support, Netanyahu said this weekend he would extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move that was seen as the death-knell for already-withering hopes of a Palestinian state built on the same land.

Gantz said the pledge was irresponsible. However, he has also previously expressed support for Israel annexing several large settlements and other chunks of the West Bank while giving vague statements of how he will push for peace.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/08/netanyahu-rallies-right-wing-in-jerusalem-ahead-of-election

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