Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to remain in his role for a fifth term, following his earning of 65 recommendations from the 120-seat elected parliament.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party and his main challenger Blue & White, under the leadership of former Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff Benny Gantz, both received 35 seats a piece, final results published Tuesday showed.
Although coalition talks are still underway, Netanyahu is believed to be likely to form a government comprised of the Likud (35), Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Kulanu (4) and Yisrael Beytenu (5).
Despite attaining the proposed support of the necessary 61 MKs, Netanyahu’s coalition construction is far from straightforward. Potential partners are already replaying old disputes, some of which led to the dissolution of the Knesset and the elections last week. One of the most contentious issues – and one on which the ultra-Orthodox parties and Yisrael Beytenu are diametrically opposed is over the contentious legislation to exempt religious students from Israel’s mandatory military draft.
It is interesting to note that Netanyahu was pushed beyond the majority threshold, after former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman – leader of secular-nationalist Yisrael Beytenu – agreed to support him. The two fell out earlier in the year, among other things, over the appropriate response to Hamas firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip.
In consultations with President Reuven Rivlin about who should lead the country, the Blue & White Party only had the support of 46 Members of Knesset (MKs). The party won 35 seats at the election and was backed in coalition talks by Labor and Meretz – center-left and left wing parties.
Pre-election polling in Israel suggested that it would be a tightly fought race in terms of who would be the largest party – and so it proved. What it also showed, was that it seemed much more likely that Netanyahu would have the numbers – i.e. an ability to form a governing coalition.
President Rivlin is expected to give a mandate to form the government on Wednesday at 20:00.