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Weeks out from a re-run election Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu visits Ukraine


Weeks out from a re-run election Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu visits Ukraine

netanyahu ukraine
Photo: AP

A month out from the September 17 legislative elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Ukraine today.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit Ukraine in 20 years. The trip is likely part of the PM’s strategy to curry favour with Ukrainian-Israelis, whose Jewish credentials are routinely doubted by Orthodox religious authorities.

Mr Netanyahu hopes to deprive Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which largely draws its support from Russian-speaking voters, of the votes required to reach the 3.25% threshold to return to the Knesset. This would knock out Mr Netanyahu’s main obstacle to forming a stable, religious, right-wing coalition.

The strategy is logical; polls show Yisrael Beiteinu struggled to reach the electoral threshold leading up to the April elections. However, Russian-speaking voters are declining as a proportion of Yisrael Beiteinu’s vote as the party seeks to broaden its appeal to a mainstream nationalist voter base. This may be enough for the party to return to parliament in September and cause Mr Netanyahu further coalition headaches.

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Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

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