Whatever the results for individual parties, the operative question is whether all the right-wing parties together can secure at least 61 seats of the 120 in parliament, the minimum for a majority coalition. Although all polls predict they will, several major polls last Friday showed the right with only 63 seats, versus 57 for the parties of the center-left.
Though the trend has been constant, the gap falls close to the margin of error of the polls, and they have been wrong in the past.
Should the right wing and religious parties fail to muster a majority, there will be a mad scramble on the center-left to try to form a coalition on their own. Under such a shocking result, the prime minister could end up being Yachimovich, a former radio journalist who admitted once backing Israel’s Communist party.
Netanyahu has maintained a lead with a message that the country needs a tough-minded and experienced leader to face down dangers including the Iranian nuclear program, potentially loose chemical weapons in Syria and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Egypt and other countries in the Arab Spring.
By comparison, the Palestinian issue seems less important to many Israelis.
Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beitenu alliance is dominated by lawmakers who say the conflict can be managed, but not resolved. The surging pro-settler Jewish Home party has gone even further. It advocates annexation of large chunks of the West Bank, the heartland of any future Palestinian state.
Critics warn that Israelis are ignoring the issue at their peril. First, there are increasing signs that the current lull in violence may be temporary — both because the Palestinian street is getting frustrated and because Abbas’ Palestinian Authority may cease the security cooperation which even Israeli officials have credited with the halt in violence.
Beyond that, there is a persistent chorus warning that the status quo is ultimately self-defeating for Israel because the default outcome is a single entity in the Holy Land — comprising Israel and all the areas it seized in the 1967 war. Based on current birthrates, most experts believe that Arabs would soon be the majority.
Palestinian officials say that Abbas has repeatedly warned Israeli visitors in recent months that Israel could end up like an ‘‘apartheid-style’’ state with a Jewish minority ruling over a disenfranchised Arab majority. At that point, the Arabs would turn their struggle away from independence and instead seek equality in a single state.
‘‘Sooner or later the Israeli public should come to the realization that the longevity, security and legitimacy of their state are dependent on their treatment of the Palestinian people and their commitment to peace and justice, not to the subjugation of a whole nation,’’ Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, wrote in Haaretz.
Many Israelis on the left agree with Ashrawi but have concluded a loss on Tuesday is inevitable, and they have grown increasingly apocalyptic in their warnings about what lies ahead.
Calling the occupation of the West Bank ‘‘a cancer,’’ columnist and songwriter Yonatan Gefen argued that even a future civil war among Israelis is not out of the question.
‘‘Either we put an end to our enslavement to the territories peacefully,’’ he also wrote in Haaretz,’’ or we will find ourselves ... fighting each other in order to save the people from themselves.’’
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