As Netanyahu Nears Victory, Israel’s Extremist Parties Celebrate

Benjamin Netanyahu’s near-certain victory in this week’s election in Israel won’t be confirmed until Thursday, but his far right allies are already savoring their rise to power.

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, in Jerusalem on Tuesday. With about two-thirds of the vote counted, Israel’s three main broadcasters were projecting that Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Likud, would finish first. [Amit Elkayam for The New York Times]


Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s once and likely future prime minister, was forced to wait on Wednesday after taking an almost insurmountable lead in Israel’s election, as officials delayed calling the election until all votes were counted.


But regardless of Mr. Netanyahu’s personal fate, his far right allies were already celebrating. The election result places their once-marginal groups and extreme ideologies at the heart of Israel’s discourse and political system.


An alliance of two religious ultranationalist parties, Jewish Power and Religious Zionism, will form the third-largest bloc in the next Israeli Parliament, giving the far right newfound power, influence and respectability. Jewish Power’s ideological antecedent was once shunned by Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Likud. Now, Mr. Netanyahu is almost certain to welcome its lawmakers into his government.


Domestically, analysts fear that would set the stage for spiraling interethnic tensions and a potential constitutional crisis. Internationally, it would risk straining Israel’s relations with its supporters and benefactors, like the United States, or new Arab partners like the United Arab Emirates. And it would challenge any remaining pretense that Israel seeks to preserve the possibility of a Palestinian state.


In the occupied West Bank, the alliance wants to accelerate Jewish settlement and remove any semblance of Palestinian autonomy. In Israel, it wants to overhaul the justice system, give politicians greater control over judicial appointments and weaken checks and balances on lawmakers.


“They want to change the system itself,” said Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli justice minister, in an interview. “Change the nature of Israeli democracy.”