Will Netanyahu Win Israel's Election? The Predicted Result Could Mean Big Changes

If Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party win Tuesday's election, he will make history by serving a fourth term as Israel's prime minister. The latest polls, however, show "Bibi" trailing behind challenger Isaac Herzog and his center-left Zionist Union, forcing Netanyahu to say Likud might lose Israel's Tuesday election. If Netanyahu and Likud lose, it would signify a sharp reversal of Israel's right-wing policies, which have held on for the past 15 years.

Friday polls showed Herzog and running mate Tzipi Livni, a lawyer and former peace negotiator, edging out past Netanyahu and his right-wing party. The Zionist Union, also known as the Labor Party, has pushed a platform that focuses on the economy and high living costs, which has held up well against Netanyahu's hard-line security policies.

The election could signify a major shift in Israel's foreign policy, specifically toward Iran, as homegrown economic problems become a bigger priority. Natan Sachs, a Brookings Institution expert who specializes in Israeli politics, writes in a blog:

For many Israelis, Iran — important as it is — is a distraction from the issues they care about more: the cost of living, the economy, social equity and social divisions inside Israel.
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Israel-U.S. relations and increased violence in the Middle East will always be hot button issues for Israelis. But things at home have gotten much worse, and that's what Herzog and his party hope will resonate with voters. According to CNBC, housing prices have risen 55 percent from 2008 to 2014, the same time span that Netanyahu has been in power. The Washington Post said Netanyahu's controversial speech at the U.S. Congress earlier this month, which focused on Middle East conflict and emphasized his opposition to Iranian nuclear arms, appeared to have little effect on Israeli voters based on surveys held by local TV news channels.

In Israeli's parliamentary system, voters see parties on their ballots rather than candidates. In order to govern, a party needs to command a majority of the 120 seats in Parliament, or the Knesset. That means even if the Zionist Union and Netanyahu's Likud take their predicted 26 and 22 seats, respectively, they will have to negotiate with smaller groups to join their government. Israel has never had a single party win outright in an election, Professor Reuven Hazan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told CNBC. Around 67 percent of voters turned out to the polls in the 2013 elections, and the same number is expected Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera.

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Israeli voters will decide Tuesday on the direction of their government, whether the country should continue to look outward at conflict or begin looking at problems within their own borders. One thing's for sure — life won't ever be the same for "King Bibi."

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