Israel‘s fourth election in two years has produced yet another stalemate, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor those seeking to topple him reaching a majority in parliament.
A final vote tally gives neither the government nor the opposition a clear path to victory, setting up weeks of coalition negotiations and possibly a fifth election.
Netanyahu’s Likud party lost six seats in the election – falling to 30 in Israel‘s 120-seat Knesset. He campaigned on a world-beating COVID-19 vaccine rollout. However, critics highlighted corruption charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust to which he pleaded not guilty.
Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party – “There is a Future” – came second, with 17 seats. The former finance minister and TV host campaigned to “bring sanity” back to Israel, a not-so-subtle dig at Netanyahu.
Naftali Bennett who heads the Yamina – “Rightward” – party won seven seats. The former Netanyahu aide, defense minister, and high-tech millionaire is vying to take over from his former boss as leader of the Israeli right.
Bezalel Smotrich heads the often-called extremist Religious Zionism party, which won six seats. Mansour Abbas, an Islamist member of Israel‘s 21.5% Arab minority and part of the United Arab List, won four seats. No Arab party has ever joined a ruling Israeli coalition, and Smotrich has said he will not sit alongside Abbas.
Gideon Saar, a former cabinet minister who quit Likud to set up the New Hope party, landed six seats. Shas, mostly representing ultra-Orthodox Jews of Middle Eastern origin, won nine seats. United Torah Judaism, mostly representing ultra-Orthodox Jews of European origin, won seven seats.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party did better than expected, picking up eight seats. Israel‘s left-wing Labor party also beat expectations, winning seven seats. Meretz, another left-wing party, won six seats.
The Yisrael Beitenu party – “Israel is our Home”, whose leader Avigdor Lieberman is often at odds with Netanyahu’s religious partners, won seven seats. The Joint List coalition of mostly Arab lawmakers won six seats, losing ground after the Islamist faction split away.
Official results will be presented on Wednesday to Israel‘s president, who will task a leader to try to form a government. That nominee has up to 42 days to put a coalition together. If he or she fails, the president asks others to try.
If nobody succeeds, Israel goes to a fifth election.
Copyright 2021 Thomson/Reuters