Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared victory in the nation’s general election held on Monday, but still lacks a clear majority to form a ruling coalition in Israel’s third vote after two prior gridlocked elections.
“We won by believing in our own way and by the people of Israel,” Netanyahu stated immediately after. But he’s still two seats short of a ruling majority, as Reuters reports of the results:
With some 90 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu, who has the pledged support of right-wing and religious parties for a coalition government, appeared to control 59 seats in parliament, two short of a ruling majority.
The gap made former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party a potential kingmaker after remaining on the sidelines in inconclusive ballots in April and September.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party gained just over 31% of the vote, followed by the opposition Blue and White party of Benny Gantz with over 23%, and with The Joint List, the alliance of Israel’s Arab political parties, with 11.60 percent.
However, Gantz stopped short of immediately conceding defeat, but noted his supporters’ “feeling of disappointment and pain” amid what could be another gridlock situation that has plagued Israeli politics for the past year.
Not only did Netanyahu extend his political career but saved himself from significant legal trouble as well, given he was shortly to go on trial for corruption — with only a win as prime minister that could keep him immune.
Israeli and international media are noting it’s a huge “comeback unseen in Israeli politics” for the embattled prime minister. As The Guardian reports Tuesday:
Adding to his woes, the timing of Monday’s election – held just two weeks before a scheduled court appearance in Jerusalem – could not have been worse.
Yet as the votes were being counted on Tuesday, it seemed Netanyahu, who denies all the charges, had somehow regained his swagger. While it remains unclear if he can form a government, or if the country is doomed to remain in political stasis, his ruling Likud party appears to be on track to win a significant number of seats and more than any other faction.
Writing in the often pro-Netanyahu newspaper, Israel Hayom, commentator Mati Tuchfeld said the result was “a comeback unseen in Israeli politics”.
Netanyahu, setting his sights on the next phase of building a coalition with his defeated rival Benny Gantz, said “It’s time for reconciliation”.
Gantz, for his part, in addressing supporters after the vote remained ambiguous on if he would agree to a coalition with Likud.
Concerning the impact of Netanyahu’s legal woes and corruption charges, The Guardian noted further that “voters either do not believe the corruption allegations, or they do not care. In this respect, there are parallels with some of Trump’s supporters in the US, who either refuse to believe or are happy to downplay criticism of his conduct.”