With Israel’s March 17 election less than a week away, polls show rising support for opposition leader Isaac Herzog ahead of the crucial legislative ballot. Two new polls Wednesday gave Herzog’s Zionist Union party a projected advantage of three to four parliamentary seats, triggering panic among Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, the Guardian reported.
“We are in danger of really losing!” read a text message sent to Likud activists Tuesday, urging them to convince their acquaintances to head to the polls. “We must save the day and make sure that every single one of our friends/acquaintances/family makes it to the polls on election day and votes for the Likud. Wake up!”
Netanyahu has attributed his party’s incredibly close race with the Zionist Union to an international effort to bring down his government. “The battle is very close, nothing is guaranteed,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with party activists Monday, the New York Times reported. “It is not guaranteed because there is a tremendous effort, worldwide, to topple the Likud government.”
The prime minister has been on the defensive following his controversial speech on Capitol Hill in Washington last week in which he warned the U.S. against making a possible nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu’s decision to accept the invitation to speak -- which House Speaker John Boehner offered without consulting the White House -- was seen as a breach of diplomatic protocol and ignited tensions with the Obama administration, with some criticizing the Israeli leader for interfering in American politics.
While a number of domestic social and economic issues have been highlighted during Israel's election campaign, including affordable housing and the cost of living, the upcoming vote is widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister. The leader has been in power for nine of the past 19 years and has won three previous elections. A fourth election win would mark a major victory for Netanyahu’s hawkish security positions, NPR noted. However, an election loss could place his political career in serious jeopardy, representing a broader rejection of his hardline political tactics.