After counting all the votes in Israel’s fourth parliamentary elections held within two years, Israel’s longest serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led coalition of ultra-right-wing parties has yet again failed to reach the majority mark. The parties which pledged their support to Netanyahu got 52 seats in the 120 member Knesset, while 61 seats are required for a majority. The results were announced on Friday, March 26, for the election held on March 23.
Netanyahu’s party, Likud, lost 6 seats in comparison to the last elections held in March 2020, it is still the largest party with 30 seats. Likud along with its traditional allies — Shas (9), United Torah Judaism (7) and Religious Zionist (6) — have 52 seats.
The opposition camp, which includes parties which have explicitly said they will not ally with Netanyahu, have 57 seats. The center right Yair Lapid-led Yesh Atid has emerged as the leading opposition party with 17 seats. Netanyahu’s partner in the previous united government Benny Gantz’s Blue and White secured 8, Yisrael Beytenu won 7, which is led by Avigdor Lieberman a former Likud member who broke away last December over Netanyahu’s leadership, and the New Hope party led by Gideon Sa’ar-led won 6. They are the other major parties in the opposition camp which together have 38 seats. They, along with parties further away from the center and to the left which amounts to 19 seats, take the tally to 57.
In the anti-Netanyahu center left and left block, Labor Party led by new leader Merav Michaeli improved its tally to 7 seats, Left-wing Meretz got 6 seats and the Arab Joint List got 6 seats. In the last election Meretz, along with Ra’am were part of the Arab Joint List and held 16 seats.
Ra’am, a constituent of the Arab Joint List in the last election, which contested this election alone and got 4 seats, and Yamina led by Naftali Bennet (7) have neither denied or accepted the possibility of an alliance with Netanyahu and hence hold the balance. Given the hostility towards Islamists among the traditional right-wing allies of Likud, it is very unlikely that Ra’am will be a part of the Netanyahu-led government. This makes the possibility of the formation of a government even more difficult.
There is also talk of a possible “the change’s block” with virtually all anti-Netanyahu parties except for Ra’am. This group of legislators are also contemplating a bill in the Knesset which will bar any person with ongoing criminal investigation to hold the post of prime minister. Netanyahu, prime minister since 2009, is facing trials on corruption charges.
The final results will be submitted to president Reuven Rivlin next Wednesday. According to Israeli Central Election Committee the results may still change until the moment they are submitted to the president. However, the chances of any substantial changes are very negligible.
The election for Israel’s parliament is held on the basis of proportional representation and the president has the right to decide who will get the first chance to form the government. If no government is formed within the given time, the parliament can dissolve itself and call for a fresh election. In which case, Netanyahu will continue as the prime minister until fresh elections are held.