Israeli Elections: Netanyahu in Lead but Majority Uncertain

Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: via Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party was on track Tuesday to win the most seats in the country’s fourth election in two years, but with no guarantee it can form a governing majority.

The projections based on exit polls that are subject to change indicate that Netanyahu’s former protege and ex-defense minister Naftali Bennett will be able to play kingmaker.

Bennett’s relations with Netanyahu have grown strained but if the former allies come to terms it could give the prime minister the right-wing coalition government that has eluded him for years.

Exit polls from Israel’s three main broadcasters have given Likud between 31 and 33 seats, far outpacing its closest challenger, the centrist Yesh Atid party projected to win between 16 and 18 seats.

Likud’s tally, along with the seats projected to have been won by its religious right-wing allies, indicates the solidly pro-Netanyahu bloc has won 53 or 54 seats.

A majority in Israel’s 120-member parliament, the Knesset, requires 61 seats.

The anti-Netanyahu bloc was on track to win 54 seats, the surveys showed.

Bennett leads the religious-nationalist Yamina party, which is projected to win between seven or eight seats. The multi-millionaire former tech entrepreneur appears able to push Netanyahu over the line. He has not ruled sitting in the anti-Netanyahu coalition, while saying he was open to joining Netanyahu.

“I will do only what is good for Israel,” Bennett’s office said in a statement after the projections were released.

Netanyahu, 71, is Israel’s longest-serving premier but his inability to unite a stable governing majority behind him has mired the country in political gridlock.

He campaigned on a coronavirus vaccination campaign that has seen nearly half of Israel’s nine million people fully inoculated against the virus.

Netanyahu is on trial over corruption charges – allegations he denies, but which have helped fuel a protest movement with weekly rallies outside his Jerusalem residence.

Tuesday’s vote was forced on Israelis after Netanyahu triggered the collapse of a unity government he had formed with former military chief Benny Gantz, his main challenger in three previous, inconclusive elections.

If Netanyahu can’t reach a deal with Bennett and his opponents cannot unite a fifth election is possible.

(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)

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