Netanyahu could remain premier, according to forecasts

The right-wing conservative Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is forecast to become the strongest force in Israel’s fourth parliamentary election within two years. The Likud party got 31 to 33 seats on Tuesday, slightly fewer than in the election a year ago. The future party of opposition leader Yair Lapid came in second. But Netanyahu has a chance of forming a government.

That depends on whether the right-wing, settler-friendly Yamina party takes Netanyahu’s side. Its chairman, Naftali Bennett, went into the election campaign with the aim of replacing Netanyahu. However, he has not ruled out entering into a coalition with the latter. Bennett said in a first reaction that evening: “I will only do what is good for the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu spoke of a “huge victory”. Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that his Likud party leads “immensely” ahead of Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a future). He thanked the citizens of Israel. “You gave the Right and the Likud a huge victory under my leadership.” It had become clear that a majority of Israelis wanted a “strong and stable right-wing government”.

With Yamina, the Netanyahu bloc is forecast to have a majority of 61 out of 120 MPs. Specifically, these would also be the strictly religious parties Shas, United Torah Judaism and the religious Zionists. However, the formation of a government could take a long time. With the preliminary end result, the picture could shift significantly. It is not expected until Friday.

Because of the corona-related circumstances of choice, it will take longer this time. The counting of the so-called double envelopes with votes from soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and corona patients should not start until Wednesday evening. According to a media report, their number, which was 330,000 in the election a year ago, will almost double this time. This corresponds to around 15 of the 120 mandates.

According to the forecasts, a total of twelve parties jumped the hurdle of 3.25 percent necessary for entry into the Knesset. Most of them had single-digit mandate numbers. According to forecasts, the traditional Workers’ Party won seven seats, while the New Hope party of Netanyahu’s former party colleague Gideon Saar only got six seats. The Islamist Raam (UAL), which was not averse to working with Netanyahu, did not even make it into parliament. For the entire election day, there was little participation in the vote.

Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009 and is the country’s longest-serving head of government. Many young Israelis don’t know anyone else. In the election campaign, Netanyahu wanted to score points with Israel’s rapprochement with Arab Gulf states. In addition, he presented himself as the originator of the rapid vaccination campaign in the country.

“Netanyahu’s election victory came from the vaccination program,” said the Jerusalem Post, analyzing the election results on Tuesday evening. “Pfizer’s vaccines saved Israel – and inadvertently saved the Prime Minister too.” On Tuesday, almost 5.2 million Israelis had received at least one dose of the corona vaccine, and pubs, fitness centers, stadiums and theaters reopened shortly before the election. “Israelis have short memories,” wrote journalist Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman. The vaccination program apparently overshadowed the dissatisfaction of many with Netanyahu’s pandemic management, despite 6,000 dead and around 700,000 unemployed.

Israel has been in a permanent political crisis for more than two years. After two elections in 2019, Netanyahu failed to form a government. After the 2020 election, under the impression of the Corona crisis, he and his Likud formed a coalition with the center alliance Blau-Weiß, but it broke up in December due to a budget dispute.

The party landscape in Israel is highly fragmented and interest-based. Even if they come from one camp, parties are often incompatible with alliances. In addition to programmatic differences, this is also due to personal animosities. Netanyahu’s relationship with other right-wing main characters such as Bennett, Gideon Saar and Avigdor Lieberman is considered difficult.

In addition, there is a low percentage hurdle that must be jumped to enter parliament. It is 3.25 percent, in Austria it is around 5. The last government was composed of more than half a dozen parties and a few Knesset members. The cabinet was correspondingly bloated. It consisted of more than 30 ministers.

According to the Israeli army, a rocket was fired at Israel in the early evening. There were therefore no victims or property damage. According to media reports, the projectile went down in the Beersheva region. Netanyahu was in the city at the time.

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