"These extreme statements are actually good for Netanyahu. They serve him in the battle for right-wing votes that have shifted from the Likud to the Jewish Home Party," the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot said recently, quoting an unnamed Likud figure.
The paper added that Netanyahu was loath to bring Bennett into his coalition but that Bennett’s popularity might force the prime minister to bend to Bennett, who got his political start as an aide to Netanyahu.
"Netanyahu had hoped that the boost he experienced early on in this election season would last him through the Jan. 22 vote," said a Likud Party candidate who spoke with the McClatchy earlier this week only on the condition of anonymity, because he didn’t want to criticize his party’s leader publicly. “Many in the party think he mismanaged our party, and lost us a lot of votes."
Israel’s three center-left parties, which polls show are likely to win seven to 12 seats, have said they might unite in a show of force against Netanyahu. Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who’s the leader of the new Movement party, has tried to unite several groups in an umbrella movement that would pose an alternative to Netanyahu.
Other parties in parliament, including those that represent Israel’s Arab population, have said they’ve been left on the sidelines and they aren’t expected to take part in any government coalition.
"This year fewer Palestinians will vote than ever before, and it is because each year we feel more and more disconnected from this entire political system," said Bassel Atas, who’s running on the Arab-Israeli Balad Party list.
He pointed to polls, including one that Israel’s Channel 2 News recently conducted, that find that for the first time this year, fewer than 50 percent of Israel’s Arab population will vote in the elections.