Jerusalem (AP) – After Israel’s fourth parliamentary election within two years, Benjamin Netanyahu has the chance of another term as prime minister, according to initial predictions.
His right-wing Likud party emerged as the strongest force in the vote despite losses. It was clear to the future party of the previous opposition leader Jair Lapid.
However, the extremely narrow majority will likely make government formation difficult, even for 71-year-old Netanyahu. Above all, he should rely on the support of Naftali Bennett and his Jamina party. During the election campaign, he had set a goal to replace Netanyahu. So it remains exciting in Israel. A deadlock is still conceivable even after an update of the forecasts. The most important questions after Tuesday’s elections:
Is there a clear winner?
No. The camps of Netanyahu’s supporters and opponents are almost the same size as after the previous election. According to the first forecasts, the outcome of the vote is very close. Government formation is becoming difficult. In addition, due to the corona, it must take until the weekend before the preliminary end result is known. This may show other numbers.
Why is that?
The counting of the votes of soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and corona patients should not start until Wednesday evening. According to a media report, their number, which was 330,000 in elections a year ago, will nearly double this time. This corresponds to approximately 15 of the 120 mandates. 61 MPs are needed for a majority.
Could the crisis in the country continue for the time being?
That is quite possible. “As things currently stand, it is unclear whether four rounds of election have ended the longest political crisis in Israel’s history,” said Jochanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). The country remains as divided as in the past two years. A fifth choice remains a very realistic option.
How could Netanyahu manage to form a government?
The 71-year-old evaluated the forecast on election night as a task to form a government. He thanked the citizens of Israel. “You have given the Right and Likud a huge victory under my leadership,” he wrote on Twitter. It had become clear that a majority of Israelis wanted a “strong and stable right-wing government.” For this, however, he would have to rely on the support of various parties, including a controversial far-right party. At the same time, a major rival would have to take his side. Naphtali Bennett and his settler-friendly Jamina party should take on the role of kingmaker.
How likely is that?
You cannot say exactly. Bennett said on election night that he was a man on the right. But he gave no insight into his plans. Even during the election campaign, he had not positioned himself clearly. On the one hand, he wanted to replace Netanyahu, but on the other, he did not rule out joining a coalition under him. Bennett could also become the majority funder of the anti-Netanyahu camp. Experts consider this rather unlikely. The question is whether Bennett would make himself the scapegoat for a possible fifth new election in less than three years.
What should Netanyahu do to get Bennett into a right-wing government? What would this mean for Israel’s future course?
Bennett is farther to the right than Netanyahu. The 48-year-old is committed to building more settlements and partially annexing the West Bank. Under Netanyahu, he was already Minister of Education and Economy and also headed the Ministry of Defense. The relationship between the two politicians is considered tense.
If Bennett joined his coalition, Netanyahu would be closer to a narrow majority of the government with the participation of the most extreme elements of Israeli society, IDI President Plesner said. This coalition could support Netanyahu’s efforts to find a political solution to his judicial wrath.
Why is the country so divided? And why should Netanyahu not be able to benefit more from the rapid corona vaccination campaign?
Netanyahu has served as Prime Minister and the country’s longest-serving head of government since 2009. Many young Israelis don’t know anyone else. From the perspective of some Israelis, it is time for a change, also as a corruption process is underway against Netanyahu. The many voices of recent years have led to electoral fatigue. The turnout was only 67.2 percent. It was last lower in 2009.
In addition, many have not forgotten the failure of the government during the pandemic: the number of infections was sometimes significantly higher than in Germany, and citizens had to come to terms with long lockdown phases. Secular Israelis also kept Netanyahu overly attentive to the ultra-Orthodox. Strictly religious parties have recently been Netanyahu’s major partners. A dispute arose that put Israeli society to the test.