The Israeli government’s Likud party has pledged to a peaceful transfer of power after repeated allegations of electoral fraud by its leader Benjamin Netanyahu have prompted security services to warn of the risk of political violence.
The 12-year wait by the Israeli prime minister for power is set to end on Sunday. That’s when 61 120-seat parliamentarians, the Knesset, voted for Naftali Bennett, an ultranationalist at the head of an eight-party coalition accepted last week, and destined to oust the five-time prime minister.
As part of repeated efforts to destroy the coalition, Netanyahu, Likud’s leader, described Bennett’s alliance with parties stretching from the fringe-left to an Islamist Arab party as “the fraud of the century”.
“We are witnessing the biggest electoral fraud in the country’s history and in my opinion, the history of democracies,” Netanyahu told a meeting of the Likud faction this week, his language representing that of the closest ally he has had in his decades in politics: Donald Trump.
There is no evidence of electoral fraud. The coalition agreement was reached after four elections in two years that did not achieve a clear result. If the new government does not get enough votes on Sunday, then a new election will be called.
Netanyahu’s allies in the ultra-Orthodox political parties, who have provided the backbone of his coalitions and who now face the same exile from power as Netanyahu, have gone even further in their rhetoric. Yaakov Litzman, a former health minister, has asked Bennett, who is religious, to quit his job. kippah (skullcap) in public, portraying him as a traitor to the Jews.
At least four members of Bennett’s party, Yamina, are now living under police protection, in addition to several members of the coalition, and critics of Netanyahu. Right-wing protesters have been living outside the homes of lawmakers Yamina, who have been forced to change their phones after constant death threats. A lawmaker has been followed by a suspicious car for an entire day, online media Walla News reported.
Israel’s Shin Bet security chief Nadav Argaman warned this week that the constant incitement against lawmakers “can be interpreted by certain groups or individuals as one that allows for violent and illegal activity that can also, God forbid, let it be lethal. “
But Likud, who will run in opposition for the first time since 2009, has denied comparisons with Trump’s last days in office as president of the United States, saying allegations of electoral fraud should not be be an accusation of Israel’s vote. Instead, they highlighted Bennett’s shift from right-wing camp to center-right government as he goes along.
“Bennett kidnapped the votes from the right and shifted them to the left in direct contradiction to his promises,” Likud said in a series of tweets late Thursday. “If this isn’t a fraud, we don’t know what is.”
He added: “There has always been a peaceful transfer of power in Israel and there will always be.”
The party had said on June 7 that Bennett was transforming “Israel into a dark dictatorship … similar to North Korea or Iran,” considering laws on the term that could prevent Netanyahu from running again. Local media have reported that lawmakers are expected to be pressured during Saturday’s prayers by Likud loyalists. The vote will take place on Sunday at 4 p.m.