Tags: Israel | Election Contenders

Face Off: Netanyahu, Gantz Duel in 3rd Israeli Election

Face Off: Netanyahu, Gantz Duel in 3rd Israeli Election

Monday, 02 March 2020 12:38 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's long-serving ruler Benjamin Netanyahu faces off against former army chief Benny Gantz on Monday in the country's third parliamentary elections in under 12 months. The battle between Netanyahu's Likud Party and Gantz's Blue and White ended in a deadlock in elections last April and September. Opinion polls are once again projecting a close race.

Here's a look at the two main contenders:

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, Israel's longest serving prime minister, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall. He failed twice last year to form a governing majority after two inconclusive elections. Now he aims to solidify his grip on power while he's also facing criminal proceedings by winning a decisive victory in Israel's unprecedented third parliamentary elections in under a year.

Netanyahu, a formidable Israeli politician for the past three decades, has cast himself as a seasoned statesman capable of representing the country on the world stage and leading Israel against the rising threat of Iran. His campaign has focused on his foreign policy accomplishments — particularly his close relationship with President Donald Trump and cultivation of close, if clandestine, ties with the Arab world — and downplayed his legal woes.

To secure support among religious nationalist voters, Netanyahu has vowed to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, particularly its Jewish settlements deemed illegal by most of the international community, if voted back into office.

But just two weeks after the election, Netanyahu will have to appear in court to face criminal charges in three cases involving fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Netanyahu has defiantly denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down, insisting he can lead the country and defend himself in court.

Netanyahu has galvanized his supporters and locked down the support of his steadfast religious and nationalist allies, but it remains unclear whether his right-wing bloc will succeed in capturing the majority in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, needed to form a government.

BENNY GANTZ

A year ago, Benny Gantz was a former army chief and political novice who presented himself to Israeli voters as an untainted alternative to Netanyahu. In the past 12 months, he has amassed campaign experience with ceaseless politicking and his Blue and White party has become the largest party in parliament.

Gantz's military credentials have made him the first realistic challenger to Netanyahu's more than a decade of rule in a country where security issues have long reigned supreme in national politics.

Blue and White's center-right alliance of former generals and reformist politicians has presented itself as an alternative to Netanyahu and vowed to never join a government with him while he faces criminal indictments. Many of its positions, particularly when it comes to security and the Palestinians, closely mirror those of Netanyahu's Likud party. But it has also promised to enact secular reforms that have appealed to a broad swath of Israeli society.

Having sworn not to form a government with the support of the country's Joint List of Arab parties, however, Blue and White's path to governing remains unclear. Even if it matches its performance in the past two elections and secures 33 or more seats in government, a center-left bloc is not likely to be able to control the 61 seats needed to form a ruling majority coalition.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


   
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Israel's long-serving ruler Benjamin Netanyahu faces off against former army chief Benny Gantz on Monday in the country's third parliamentary elections in under 12 months. The battle between Netanyahu's Likud Party and Gantz's Blue and White ended in a deadlock in elections...
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Monday, 02 March 2020 12:38 AM
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