Israel Election: Islamic Threats vs. Kitchen Table
From the outside looking in, it appears that Israelis today will decide whether they are concerned about the state’s very survival against Islamist threats or whether “kitchen table” issues will sway the election:
TEL AVIV—Israelis began voting Tuesday in an election that will test the survival skills of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his bet that their fear of the country’s adversaries outweighs concerns about the rising cost of living at home.
Mr. Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud party and a longtime dominant figure in Israeli politics, is seeking a third straight term and a fourth overall in an unexpectedly close race against Isaac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Union.
Nine of the 23 other parties in the race are expected to win well over half the parliament’s 120 seats. Their leaders will help determine which of the two front runners—in negotiations that could last days or even weeks—is best placed to form a 61-seat majority and a governing coalition.
Analysts said it is impossible to predict who will prevail.
Mr. Netanyahu—the longest serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion, a founder of the state—portrayed himself during the campaign as a bulwark against security threats. He spoke of the perils of Islamic State and Iran. He traveled to Paris to join European leaders in a solidarity march for victims of the January terrorist attacks and to the U.S. Congress to warn against terms of an emerging international agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program. He emphasized his record of promoting expansion of Jewish settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state—a factor in the breakdown of peace talks with the Palestinian leadership last year.
Mr. Herzog, a soft-spoken lawyer who served in previous governments as minister of housing, social welfare and tourism, offered a more conciliatory foreign policy and criticized Mr. Netanyahu’s management of the economy. He pointed to Israel’s income inequality, rising cost of living and shortage of affordable middle-class housing.