Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to rebuff international demands to allow a Palestinian state with a border based on the pre-1967 Green Line and its capital in East Jerusalem, as hardline pro-settler parties and factions are expected to make unprecedented gains in today’s election.
“When they say, ‘Go back to the ‘67 lines,’ I stand against. When they say, ‘Don’t build in Jerusalem,’ I stand against,” Netanyahu told Channel 2 in a television interview.
Likud supporters on Sunday draped the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City with huge banners proclaiming “Only Netanyahu will protect Jerusalem” and “Warning: ‘67 border ahead.”
Netanyahu’s electoral alliance, Likud-Beiteinu, is on course to emerge as the biggest party in the 120-seat parliament, with 32 to 35 seats. Negotiations to form the next coalition government will begin immediately after final results are announced.
Most analysts expect Netanyahu to invite the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, led by Naftali Bennett, to become a coalition partner following a bruising election battle between the pair.
“An hour after the elections, the fight between Netanyahu and Bennett will be over. They will sit down together to form a coalition government,” the respected columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth.
However, Barnea added that they would then “discover that their real enemies are within their own homes.”
Both parties are fielding extremely hardline candidates, some of whom are expected to become members of the next Knesset.
The expected strengthening of the hard right in the next parliament may encourage Netanyahu to seek a broad base for his coalition.
“He will try for a large coalition to prevent the possibility of one party blackmailing him,” Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies said. “The more parties you have, the more they neutralize each other. He will want parties both to his right and to his left.”
Labor, historically the party of the Israeli left, has moved toward the political center. Its leader, former journalist Shelly Yachimovich, has all but refused to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, instead attempting to capitalize on huge socioeconomic protests in Israel 18 months ago.
Labor is expected to be the second-largest party with 16 to 17 seats, but Yachimovich has rejected the possibility of joining a “radical right” coalition led by Netanyahu.
The leaders of two new centrist parties have indicated their willingness to discuss a partnership with the Likud-Beiteinu alliance, led by Netanyahu and the ultra-nationalist former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Yair Lapid, the leader of the secular Yesh Atid party, which is forecast to win 11 to 13 seats, would be a counterweight to the religious ultra-orthodox parties, which are also potential coalition partners.
Lapid has also steered away from the Israeli-Palestinian issue, concentrating his campaign on social and economic issues.
Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni may be a more problematic partner for Netanyahu as the chief pitch of her party, Hatnua, has been the resumption of meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians on a two-state settlement to the conflict.
Netanyahu needs to assemble a coalition of more than 60 members of parliament to form the next government.