Right-wing revolution in Israel?

Thursday, January 03, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

For most of his latest term as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has presided over a unity government that leaned to the right. But polls conducted just weeks ahead of the January 22 general election show Israel may be heading toward a full right-wing revolution.

As with any election season, polls are being conducted nearly every day, and they are all showing the same trend - the two nationalist parties to the right of Netanyahu's Likud are steadily gaining, seemingly at the expense of every other party, excluding the far left Meretz and the Arab parties.

In particular, the Jewish Home Party is now predicted to become the Knesset's second largest faction behind Likud. An Israel Radio survey broadcast on Thursday put Likud at 35 seats and both Jewish Home and the left-wing Labor Party at 18 seats each in the next Knesset.

Jewish Home, which is the successor of Israel's National Religious Party, has only three seats in the current Knesset, but has experienced a huge surge in popularity following the election of charismatic entrepreneur Naftali Bennett as the new party leader several months ago.

Left-wing media attacks against Bennett in recent weeks appear only to have strengthened his appeal.

The rise of Jewish Home and Bennett is also seen as being tied to a general weariness among Israelis for the failed, but lingering land-for-peace process with the Palestinian Authority.

Polls show that while nearly half of all Israelis remain ready to divide the land for the sake of peace, most do not believe that such a gesture will result in genuine peace and end the conflict. Many, like Bennett, have cited Israel's surrender of the Gaza Strip and its subsequent transformation into a terrorist haven and missile platform as evidence that land-for-peace is dead.

Instead, Bennett is advocating annexation of those parts of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") where Jews live, while granting autonomy to the Palestinian-dominated areas. He says the creation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria is out of the question.

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