President Herzog Tells American Jewish Leaders Israeli Vote ‘Should Be Respected’
Just hours before Israelis go to the polls for the fifth time in almost four years, President Isaac Herzog on Monday addressed American Jewish leaders in a bid to ease concerns about the outcome of the elections they may not like.
“I know the frequency of elections in Israel is somewhat unnerving, and I am aware of the questions posed in many Jewish communities around the world about the outcome of the elections,” Herzog stated in a video address to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Chicago. “The results may or may not be to your liking, but the vote of the Israeli people should be respected.”
“Beyond this, I say to each and every one of you that the firm, vital connection between the State of Israel and North American Jewry will not, and should not, be compromised, whatever the results,” he emphasized.
The final polls conducted ahead of Tuesday’s national elections predicted an almost 60-60 tie in seats in Israel’s parliament between the right-wing bloc led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s center-left bloc. This in turn means that neither Netanyahu’s Likud party nor Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is likely to win a majority of 61 seats on their own and will need the support of smaller political parties to build prospective coalitions needed to form a government.
“While frequent elections are clearly not ideal—they are also evident of a vibrant, dynamic democracy,” Herzog noted. “We must all recognize that the Israeli people, abundant with diversity and varying opinions, are correctly exercising their fundamental, democratic right to vote.”
The last pre-election polls published on Friday suggest that the Religious Zionism alliance is set to become the third-largest party in the Knesset and is set to take a decisive force of kingmaker in the formation of a coalition government.
In his attempt to return to power, Netanyahu has found allies on the far-right including Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir. Over the past year, far-right lawmaker Ben Gvir has been rising in popularity advocating for the Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank and the overhaul of core elements of Israel’s judicial system.
The rise in popularity of the radical right has stoked fears that if Netanyahu wins Tuesday’s elections far-right nationalists including Ben Gvir will join a future government as ministers sitting on the country’s security cabinet.
On Sunday, Ben Gvir announced that he will demand to be appointed public security minister with authority over the police, during coalition negotiations, should Netanyahu win the elections.