Netanyahu complains of “greatest election fraud”

Photo: EPA Benjamin Netanyahu

On the verge of losing his record-long grip on power, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday lashed out at his political opponents. "We are witnessing the greatest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy."

His language is reminiscent of another world leader who recently also lost power. "We had an election that was stolen from us.” Such claims sparked a deadly assault by Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol to try to stop Congress from certifying his election loss. And now fears of political violence are bubbling up in Israel.

Netanyahu’s claims of fraud come just a day after Israel’s chief of domestic security issued a rare warning of possible political violence in the country. Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman called on political and religious leaders to tone down potential incitement.

Netanyahu is facing the prospect of an end to his 12-year run as premier after Israel's opposition leader, Yair Lapid, announced last week that he had succeeded in forming a governing coalition. The centrist cobbled together an unwieldy array of factions stretching from ultra-nationalist to leftist and even, for the first time in Israel's history, an Arab Islamist party. 

But Lapid's proposed government has yet to be sworn in, and could still unravel before it begins. It will require a simple majority vote in the 120-member Knesset, but that could be more than a week away. 

Netanyahu has been whipping up outrage at the man expected to replace him as PM, Naftali Bennett. He leads an ultra-nationalist party, and already broke his campaign pledge not to join a coalition with Lapid and left-wing and Arab parties. Netanyahu called on Bennett's party members to reject what he's called "a dangerous leftist government."

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