|A man looks at a campaign poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at David's Citadel in Jerusalem's Old City Jan. 20, 2013. The poster reads "only Netanyahu will guard Jerusalem". Israel will hold general elections on Jan. 22. (Xinhua/Jini)
by Pierre Klochendler
JERUSALEM, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday, but the dice are already cast, so it appears. In all probability, according to polls, the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will succeed himself.
"You're the greatest!" an Israeli pop singer sang Netanyahu's praise at the campaign kick-off of the Likud-Beitenu union. The Likud leader, who has served as the Israeli premier twice, indeed looks irresistible on his way to winning a third term.
Well before casting their votes on Tuesday, many Israeli voters know what was and what will be. According to latest opinion polls, the union of Likud and the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party would be the biggest winner of the vote, gaining 32 seats in the 120- member one-chamber parliament, the Kenesset.
"The notion is that everything's settled; that Likud with Benjamin Netanyahu is gonna win, no matter what. Nothing's gonna change. We're gonna wake up with the same government," said Yonatan Regev, political analyst of Israel's state TV Channel 10.
Ever since Netanyahu's election four years ago, polls invariably predict him at the helm for four more years. No wonder that at Channel 10's newsroom, the election campaign's just business as usual.
"The campaign's dormant -- no pros and cons, no passion, no drama, no anticipation of change, neither in economics nor in politics," said Hezi Simantov, a reporter of Channel 10.
Yet, because Netanyahu seems unbeatable, the number of parliamentary seats his electoral list would garner is on steady decline, as if victory validated the law of diminishing returns.
Too much support might paradoxically lead to too much disaffection.
General elections in Israel are conducted in accordance to a proportional parliamentary system of coalitions. People vote for political parties' lists of candidates. The party scoring the highest number of seats in the 120-seat Knesset is usually chosen to form a governing coalition.
The diminishing support is largely to blame on his decision to unify under the same ticket his right-wing Likud list to the more right-wing Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Homeland) party, pundits concur.
In politics, "united we stand" doesn't necessarily show at the polling station.
"They went to this move thinking, 'We'll combine our forces and we'll have 45 mandates.' But they're gonna be much smaller, and if they're smaller they're weaker," Regev said.
Some of Netanyahu's alienated supporters appear to prefer lists reflecting more accurately their personal expectations.
Many intend to follow the call of the party which Netanyahu tries to emulate -- the even more right-wing Jewish Home party which caters settlers' interests.
"I trust Netanyahu but I want to strengthen his right flank," said an unnamed supporter of the Jewish Home party.
Some are so disaffected that they don't know yet for whom to vote. "I'm sitting on the fence right now," said an undecided young man.
Nevertheless, experts predict that Netanyahu will succeed himself -- if only by default.
"Not because he's better, but because he's the least worst," Regev noted.
A far second in the electoral race, Labor party chairwoman Shelli Yechimovitch focuses on socio-economic issues.
"So long as Netanyahu remains at the helm," she stated a recent Labor party rally, "the gap between rich and poor will remain."
"We shall remove Netanyahu," she pledged. "And if we don't, we shall lead the opposition."
Whether peace -- not society -- should be the election's front- running issue divides the Center and the Left. And thus, with no prospect of change in power, an encompassing moroseness has settled on the campaign.
"Netanyahu is a very bad prime minister but it's not the main issue. The most important thing is the peace process with the Palestinians," a Labor supporter claimed.
Not peace and security as in the past, but security and stability are Netanyahu's motto. Israelis are still reeling after their country's recent military onslaught on the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza.
"We see the Palestinians; Syria, who knows what's gonna happen; our relations with Egypt are changing; Iran; who knows what's gonna happen in Jordan right next door; and not only that, internal issues as well. We saw the social uprising here. There's so much at stake," Regev explained.