According to the exit polls, neither the right-wing/religious bloc nor the center-left bloc have enough seats to form a governing coalition at 61 without the support of Avigdor Lieberman, a former Foreign and Defense minister and leader of Yisrael Beiteinu party.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country needs “a strong government, a stable government, a Zionist government, a government committed to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz urged national unity. “Over a million citizens said no incitement and division, and yes to unity. They said no to corruption, yes to integrity. No to an attempt to ruin Israeli democracy, yes to guarding Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Tonight, however it develops from here, the journey to fix Israeli society begins.”
JERUSALEM—While exit polls for Israel’s second general elections showed Tuesday night that Likud and Blue and White are the two largest parties (30 to 32 seats for each party) expected to enter the next 120-member Knesset, neither party appears to have a clear path to a majority coalition.
According to the exit polls, neither the right-wing/religious bloc nor the center-left bloc have enough seats to form a governing coalition at 61 without the support of Avigdor Lieberman, a former Defense minister and leader of Yisrael Beiteinu party.
Lieberman, who refused to join a Likud-led government following the April 9 election, could be the potential kingmaker for this latest election with a stronger showing (between 8 to 10 seats) than in April. He has called for a unity government to be formed between Likud, Blue and White, and his secular-nationalist party.
Most exit polls also have the Arab Joint List as the third largest party in the Knesset. This result is a strong turnaround for the Joint Arab List, which is a political alliance of several Arab parties: Balad, Hadash, Ta’al and the United Arab List.
Addressing Likud suppporters in Tel Aviv early on Werdnesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country needs “a strong government, a stable government, a Zionist government, a government committed to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Netanyahu said that he will begin negotiations with prospective coalition partners in the coming days to create a “strong Zionist government” in order to prevent an “anti-Zionist” government, alluding to the strong showing of the Joint Arab List in exit polls.
Likud Party leaders dismissed calls to replace Netanyahu as leader of the party. Likud is a united party and will continue to be so. Likud is the only democratic party in the political system, headed by an elected leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Yuli Edelstein, who sits No. 2 on the Likud list behind Netanyahu.
In his address prior to Netanyahu, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz urged national unity. “Over a million citizens said no incitement and division, and yes to unity. They said no to corruption, yes to integrity. No to an attempt to ruin Israeli democracy, yes to guarding Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Tonight, however it develops from here, the journey to fix Israeli society begins.”
Gantz said that “Israel has huge security challenges. Who knows this like we do, with over 100 years of collective security experience. But no less than security, the internal divisions worry me. These cracks threaten to tear us apart. We as a leadership must act immediately to heal them. Society is strong, and trusts itself but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”
Gantz said that political contacts with other parties are already underway, adding, “I mean to talk to everyone. We will work to set up broad national government that will express the will of the people.’’
Before politics, we are one nation and one society. The division and incitement are behind us, unity and reconciliation are waiting for us. I call on my rivals in all the camps, put divisions aside and work together for the sake of a good righteous society for all of its citizens. ”
Avigdor Lieberman who appears to be able to play the kingmaker in the coalition negotiations, said that he would accept only one outcome — a national unity government.
Addressing his supporters, the leader of Yisrael Beitenu declared : “There is only one option: a broad liberal government made up of the Likud, Blue and White and Yisrael Beiteinu.”
“We have always said that a unity government is possible only in an emergency situation, and I say to every citizen that is watching us now on television — the situation, security-wise and economically, is an emergency situation,” he said.
A recent report published by the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)stressed that to meet the challenges of being in a complex region and of facing no shortage of foreign and domestic challenges, Israel must focus on national unity, according to a new report.
The study, titled “Might at a Critical Moment,” highlights 14 main recommendations, focusing on national cohesion, the Iran threat, a shift to managing the conflict with the Palestinians instead of attempting to solve it, regional relations and relations with the United States, Europe and Russia.
According to JISS President Efraim Inbar, “There is a need for a national consensus on policies.” The government should keep away from policies not within the consensus, Inbar told JNS, and in particular those advocated by the extreme ends of the Israeli political spectrum, “to maintain social resilience.”
While JISS believes national cohesion is paramount, said Inbar, the report also places a strong emphasis on the multiple threats emanating from Iran, which JISS experts consider to be the country’s top foreign policy challenge, and indeed an existential threat.
What’s next ?
- We can expect results after all votes have been counted by Wednesday afternoon but the Central Election Committee may not announce the official results until later on Thursday.
- The President will then announce a formal consultation process where he will meet each party and ask who they recommend should be Prime Minister.
- By next week the President will ask the party leader with the best chance of building a 61-seat majority to form a government. That candidate will have 28 days (plus the option of a two week extension) to form a coalition. If that candidate fails, the President is expected to demand they return that mandate to him so he can ask another party leader in order to avoid a repeat of what happened in April when Netanyahu initiated a vote to dissolve the Knesset.
- Netanyahu is scheduled to have a pre-indictment hearing in early October to challenge the evidence in the three cases where the Attorney General has recommended he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The most likely outcome with these results is some form of grand coalition but the exact make up of that and the policy compromises required will be negotiated fiercely in the weeks ahead. But one thing is clear, Benjamin Netanyahu has failed for the second time to form a 61-seat majority coalition and that could cause intense debate in the Likud about whether they should stick with him or move to appoint a new leader.