The final results of the snap general elections in Israel came in on September 20th.
Outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing party the Likud lost to rival Benny Gantz’ Kahol Valan party with 31 seats to 33.
Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties that have agreed to negotiate together, currently stands at 55 seats.
The center-left bloc has 57 seats, Benny Gantz’ party is part of it.
The total number of seats in the Israeli Parliament – the Knesset is 120.
Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu won 8 seats and is confirmed as the election’s kingmaker, reiterated his support for a “broad liberal unity government,” which would include his own party, Likud and Kahol Lavan.
Lieberman was the country’s defense minister, prior to turning in his resignation, after which Netanyahu himself became Defense Minister, which he still is.
Despite that, Lieberman is ready to support both Netanyahu and Gantz in a possible government.
These results are final, but not official – not until they are presented to President Rivlin on September 25th.
President Reuven Rivlin is set to start consultations with party leaders on September 22nd, as he wishes for a “stable government.”
Benjamin Netanyahu called on Benny Gantz, saying that he would sit with him “at any hour,” and negotiate.
“There’s no reason for us to go for further elections. I’m against it. A broad unity government is the order of the day,” Netanyahu said.
Kahol Lavan, Gantz’ party indicated that it was ready to form a broad coalition with Netanyahu’s Likud, but only if Gantz was Prime Minister. And only if Netanyahu wasn’t part of the government, according to Yair Lapid, the leader of the Kahol Lavan (Blue and White).
MK Yair Lapid accused Netanyahu of “trying to drag the country into a third election.”
At a Blue and White faction meeting, Lapid said: “One person is preventing the formation of a liberal unity government. One person. When faced with the choice between what’s important for the country and what’s important for one person, the country comes first.”
He accused the Netanyahu bloc of extortionist actions and that he simply refuses to give up power.
“That’s the aim of the bloc of extortionists and extremists he created yesterday. That’s the aim of all the spin he’s throwing around in the past few hours. The public didn’t give him their confidence – he’s trying to replace the public. Like the Labor party in the 1970s. The public doesn’t want him anymore so he wants to replace the public. We can’t allow him to drag us to another election.
Our aim is to create a national liberal government. It’s not Liberman’s condition. It’s our aim. That’s why we went to elections, to create a liberal national unity government. With Liberman. With the Likud without Netanyahu. With other partners. One person stands between us and that government. If Netanyahu moves aside, we’ll have a unity government.
A government of all those who believe we need civil marriage, cancelling the mini-market law, public transport on Shabbat. Without indictments and without corruption. And in light of what happened now, a government that will amend the election law so that it won’t be possible to drag us into elections every three months. That’s what the majority of the public wants. That’s what they voted for. That’s why we’re the biggest party in Israel,” claimed Lapid.
Now, President Rivlin is to talk with party leaders for two days, to negotiate a government.
If agreement is not reached in 6 weeks, a third round of elections need to take place.
Warning of that possibility Rivlin said he “will do everything I can to prevent another general election.”
“But the responsibility for this, as well as the responsibility for forming a government that serves all the citizens of Israel with the dedication it deserves, is yours,” he said.
“Our current situation, which has gone on for a long time, with a transition government, grievously limits the ability of the government to act and to serve the citizens of Israel, and our ability to face the political, security and economic challenges we face,” warned Rivlin.
Significantly, Netanyahu not winning the majority in parliament puts him in jeopardy of actually being sent to prison, as he has several indictments for bribery against him.
“The real story, the other story, which is the most important story for Bibi, is his attempt to stop the criminal investigation against him by using parliamentary immunity,” former deputy prime minister Dan Meridor told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “He needed a majority in parliament to give him immunity so that the charges against him — which are quite heavy, of [bribery], of corruption — will not be pursued.”
US President Donald Trump who was very vocal about wishing for Netanyahu to be the prime minister has yet to provide a comment on the election results.
The Israeli election drama provides an opportunity for the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas used the chance to announce West Bank election plans. Abbas told reporters outside Norway’s parliament that he would issue a decree for elections across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem when he returns to the Palestinian Territories following the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
There have not been any national Palestinian elections for 13 years. Abbas was elected president in 2005 and Hamas won a 2006 parliamentary election.
But how likely that is to happen remains questionable.
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