Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an election-eve appeal on Monday to wavering supporters to “come home”, showing concern over a forecast far-right surge that would keep him in power but weaken him politically.
In the last stretch of a largely lacklustre campaign that could produce the most hardline government in Israel’s history, Netanyahu has watched high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home party chip away at his right-wing Likud’s opinion poll lead.
At a final campaign appearance in Jerusalem, Netanyahu voiced confidence his traditional backers would not abandon him, and repeated his stump pledges to keep Israel safe and build Jewish settlements over international opposition.
“I have no doubt that many, many people will decide at the last minute to come home to Likud-Yisrael Beitenu,” said Netanyahu, who polls predict will still win Tuesday’s parliamentary election, albeit by a narrower margin than first forecast.
“I have a good feeling. And at the last minute, I appeal to each and every citizen going to the ballot box: ‘Decide for whom you are going to vote - for a divided and weak Israel or for a united and strong Israel and a large governing party?’.”
The final opinion polls, on Friday, showed Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, running on a joint list of candidates with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, still set to win.
But the surveys indicated his support had dipped to its lowest point so far and forecast that a potential right-wing and religious bloc of parties led by Likud-Yisrael Beitenu would have a slim parliamentary majority of 63 out of 120 seats.
If the polls are correct - and they have been famously inaccurate in several past elections - Likud and Yisrael Beitenu would capture 10 seats fewer than they took in the previous national ballot in 2009.