With 97% of the normal ballots counted, Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats, Yesh Atid 17, Shas 9, Blue and White 8, United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor 7, New Hope, the Joint List and the Religious Zionist Party 6 and Meretz and Ra’am 4.
After a hard-fought election, an Arab Islamist could choose Israel’s next prime minister.
You read that correctly.
Tuesday’s elections have left a razor-thin margin between a right-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a diverse array of parties bent on ousting him.
To prevail, each side may need the support of an Arab Islamist party that appears to have clinched just four seats in the 120-member Knesset but is not committed to either.
That means the United Arab List, known by the Hebrew name Ra’am, could decide whether Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, remains in office.3
Same goes for Naftali Bennet, heading the Yemina party who one 7 seats. He is not committed to any block, therefore will negotiate with both factions for the highest bidder.
Here are several possible options for a future government:
Netanyahu as PM/Right/Abbas = 63: This would include the 52 seats of Likud, Shas, UTJ, Religious Zionist Party plus Yamina’s seven, with Ra’am’s four supporting the coalition from outside. Likelihood: high, despite promises from Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich not to join Abbas. Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir would not have to be part of such a coalition, but Smotrich would. A Statement from Abbas declaring support for the State of Israel will suffice the far right. Netanyahu will need to give Bennet anything he asks for including sharing the presidency (“rotation”). In this scenario Bennet is the one to decide if he is to join Netanyahu or go with the left.
Anti-Netanyahu camp + Ra’am = 62: the 56 seats of Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor, Joint List, New Hope and Meretz, plus Ra’am’s four again. Likelihood: Relatively high if Abbas decides to join efforts to end Netanyahu’s political career in return for being appointed the first Arab minister from an Arab party. In this scenario Abbas is the one to decide if he is to join Netanyahu or go with the left.
Yamina ousts Netanyahu = 62: This scenario is the same as the anti-Netanyahu one, except that Yamina replaces the Joint List. It would comprise the 50 seats of Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor, New Hope and Meretz, plus Yamina’s 7 and Ra’am’s 4. Likelihood: low.
Defectors from Likud to New Hope: No one wants to join a sinking ship, but there are still plenty of Likud MKs who privately bear a grudge against Netanyahu. Hendel said that when he sought Likud defectors in the past, there were several who were prepared to come then and still remain in the party. Likelihood: Low.
Fifth election: Likelihood: High.