Long-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly on his way to address supporters – when he stopped abruptly. Israel voted on Tuesday for the fourth time in two years. And according to a new forecast, the longed-for further term of office of the head of government, on which he had gambled, could be a long way off. The 71-year-old postponed his appearance and ultimately refrained from a classic victory speech. His party, the right-wing Likud, remains the strongest force with 30 seats, but has lost six seats compared to the March 2020 result.
Netanyahu’s chances of a further term in office are dwindling more and more – despite the rapid corona vaccination campaign, which he relied on so much during the election campaign. It became clear on Wednesday that the country remains deeply divided after the election, which amounted to a referendum on Netanyahu, who was accused in a corruption trial. A way out of the stalemate and the political crisis is not in sight for the time being. No budget has been passed since 2019.
Allies are missing on both sides
Netanyahu currently wants to avoid another election and called for the formation of a stable government that night. But whether this wish is realistic is another matter. For Netanyahu’s desired alliance of right-wing and religious parties, it is not enough to have a majority in parliament, the Knesset. He is dependent on further support, such as his ultra-right rival Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party – even if the latter has so far declared the replacement of Netanyahu as a goal. Netanyahu’s problem is that the formation of a right-wing government is unlikely to go down well with the new, liberal government in the United States.
The 71-year-old Netanyahu could benefit from the fact that he ensnared the Arab Israelis in a U-turn to his previous policy in the election campaign. Because the young Raam party could tip the scales. She seems to be able to enter the Knesset with five seats. A coalition in which both Raam and the radical right-wing religious-Zionist party sit would, however, be extremely problematic. These include supporters of the murdered, extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who incited against Palestinians and called for a Jewish theocracy. In the 1980s, the Kach party was banned.
There are similar difficulties in the anti-Netanyahu bloc. The runner-up in the election, the previous opposition leader Yair Lapid from the Future Party (18 seats), would also have to try to get Bennett on his side. But his settler-friendly Yamina has, among other things, differences with the parties of the Arab Israelis, which Lapid should also get on board. So far, Lapid has rejected a coalition with Netanyahu.
So a lot will depend on Bennett in the coming weeks. So far, he has not let himself look at the cards. The specter of a fifth election in less than two and a half years could put massive pressure on him. It is questionable whether he would accept the possible role of the scapegoat.
As of Wednesday, more than a dozen parties or lists would be represented in the Knesset. The formation of a coalition is only possible with the involvement of a large number of them. A head of government would have to take into account many particular interests.
More clarity could arise after counting all votes. However, this was not expected until Friday. The official result will be published eight days after the election.
Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009 and is the country’s longest-serving head of government. For some Israelis, it is time for change. The many votes in the past few years caused disaffection with politics. According to preliminary figures, the turnout was only 67.2 percent. It was last lower in 2009. In addition, many people have not forgotten the failings of the government at the beginning of the pandemic, which is why Netanyahu was unable to score more with the vaccination campaign. The conflict with the Palestinians played almost no role in the election campaign.(dpa / what / red.)