image Photo: Flash90

No clear winner in Israeli polls

The Central Elections Committee has announced the final count of votes cast in Israel’s national election on Tuesday.

The tally shows that the right-wing Likud party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won 30 mandates, followed by the centrist Yesh Atid headed by Yair Lapid with 17, the ultra-Orthodox Shas at 9, and Blue and White 8. Yamina, Labor, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu received 7 each. Religious Zionism, the Joint List, New Hope and Meretz parties garnered 6, while the Ra’am United Arab List (UAL) won 4.

Consistent with Israeli history, none of the parties won an outright majority of 61 of the 120-seat Knesset, which will be the country’s 24th.

Voter turnout  was just 67.4%, which is the lowest level since the 2013 legislative ballot.

An ideologically diverse group of opposition factions hold 57 parliamentary seats, while Netanyahu and his natural allies including Religious Zionism have just 52.

The President of the Israel Democracy Institute, Yohanan Plesner, described the current impasse as the nation’s “worst political crisis in decades.”

The path to victory in Israel’s electoral stalemate will be difficult for either camp due to deep divisions between the 13 elected parties, which is the largest number to enter the Knesset since the 2003 election.

The potential king makers are Yamina and the UAL, who have yet to commit to joining either side.

Even though Arab parties have never joined a governing coalition, the UAL has signaled openness to backing the next government under Lapid or Netanyahu; although the latter option is already being obstructed by ultranationalist Religious Zionism party. Faction head leader Bezalel Smotrich posted on Facebook that, “No rightist government predicated on UAL will arise. Period. Not on the inside, nor the outside, not through abstention, nor through some other kind of (scheme).”

The selection of the leader tasked to build a viable coalition is made by President Reuven Rivlin, after receiving the recommendations of all the elected factions. Rivlin announced that he will delay those consultations until after  the Jewish holiday of Passover that begins tomorrow evening and concludes on 5 April.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid is currently positioned as the likeliest candidate to be awarded the mandate to form the next government.

The nominee will be allotted 42 days to assemble a coalition. Failure to achieve that will send Israeli voters to a much unwanted fifth election since April 2019.