JERUSALEM - With most votes counted, Israelis still do not know who won Tuesday’s election. So far, neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the main challenger, Yair Lapid, has a way to put together a majority coalition. That means there will be weeks of political horse trading and possibly another election.
It’s going to take a while until Israelis know the final results of Tuesday’s election, the fourth in two years. Yaron Dekel is a longtime journalist in Israel and has covered many elections.
“We don’t have a bottom line, unfortunately, because the counting still continues. We’ll probably have the final results by Friday morning or afternoon,” he said.
That’s because there are more than 450,000 special ballots, from Israeli soldiers, hospital patients and diplomats overseas, that have yet to be counted. And since Israel is such a small country, even a few thousand votes can swing a parliamentary seat.
There are several possible scenarios once the vote counting is done, says Dekel. The first is that Netanyahu, with the help of several ultra-Orthodox and hardline parties, like Yamina, headed by former Netanyahu aide Naftali Bennett, puts together a coalition.
“The first one is the easy one. Mr. Netanyahu plus Mr. Bennett both have together over 61 seats. Mr. Netanyahu is likely to form his sixth government because if this is the case I believe that Mr. Bennett will have one option to join Mr. Netanyahu and that’s it,” he said.
Another scenario, he says, is that nobody is able to form a coalition, meaning Israel would go to a fifth election. Yet another, less likely possibility, is that all of those who oppose Netanyahu band together to put together a coalition. The chance that Arab members of parliament would join a government, even a centrist one, seems unlikely.
Israeli analysts said Israel’s fast COVID-19 vaccine program, which has already reached 80 percent of Israel’s adults, worked in Netanyahu’s favor. The fact that he is currently on trial for corruption, has not affected his support, which remains similar to the past three elections.
Netanyahu appeared happy when he went to vote.
He said it is a holiday and that Israelis are going out in so many ways, referring to Israel’s recent emergence from a series of lockdowns, and a sharp improvement in the coronavirus situation.
Several new parties will be in the next government. The first is a surprise achievement by Abbas Mansour, an Arab member of parliament who broke from the Arab Joint List and appears to have received five seats.
Another is a new extremist party called Religious Zionism that won six seats and will be part of Netanyahu’s coalition, if he manages to form one.