It appeared to be a big win for the Likud Party and their long-time leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister announced early that it appeared his coalition had won big based on the early results. But in a shift that mirrored the United States elections, his apparent big win got smaller and smaller until now, with 97% of the votes counted, it appears he fell short of securing a majority.
Most exit polls show his right-wing bloc will end up with 59 Knesset seats, two short of a majority. Meanwhile, the anti-Netanyahu bloc also fell short with 56 seats projected. That means Israel may attempt to form another unity government or may be headed to a fifth election in under three years. According to Jerusalem Post:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to form a government for the seventh time in his three-decade political career, according to preliminary results from 97% of the regular polling stations reported by the Central Elections Committee. Netanyahu’s bloc of Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Party was found to have won 59 seats along with Yamina, two short of a majority.
According to the preliminary results, Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats, Yesh Atid 18, Shas 9, Blue and White 8, United Torah Judaism, Yamina and Labor 7, New Hope, Yisrael Beytenu, the Religious Zionist Party 6 and Meretz 5. After initial indications that the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party had not crossed the 3.25% electoral threshold, current results give it five seats and the Joint List six.
Exit polls were mostly inconclusive throughout the dramatic post-election night. The three channels – 11, 12 and 13 – initially called a victory for Netanyahu’s Likud assuming Bennett, who immediately said he would do what is right for the country, joins the coalition.
Central Elections Committee head Orly Ades said preliminary results of the normal polling stations would be announced later in the day. Only after that, the Central Elections Committee will begin counting some 450,000 double envelopes, which are ballots from hospitals, nursing homes, emissaries, soldiers, prisoners and special polling stations for returnees at Ben-Gurion International Airport and for the sick and quarantined from COVID-19.
Though Netanyahu’s bloc has a slim lead, it seems more likely that his opposition can negotiate a majority with the remaining seats. They would need five compared to Netanyahu’s two, but there is no obvious path to bring those two necessary seats to Netanyahu’s table.
A fifth election may be on the horizon for Israel if neither side is able to woo enough seats to their camps. Whether due to Covid-19 concerns, political fatigue, or a combination of the two, this election saw a drop in participation for the normally hyper-involved citizens of the Middle Eastern state. The turnout of 67.2% was a drop of 4.3% since last March’s election in which the turnout was 71.5% and the lowest of the four elections of the past two years.
Israel continues to remain in political limbo at a time when threats from a resurgent Iran are inching closer to their lands. If Benjamin Netanyahu is removed from office, the wolves will be ready at the gate.