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Netanyahu led bloc drops to 58 seats

What happened: The votes are still being counted, but with 99.85 per cent of the votes in, neither Netanyahu or Gantz has a majority and the Netanyahu led bloc of right wing ultra-orthodox parties has 58 seats and the centre left bloc 55. Likud has 36 seats, Blue and White 33 seats, Joint List 15 seats, Shas 9 seats, United Torah Judaism 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 7 seats, Labour-Gesher-Meretz 7 seats, Yamina 6 seats.

  • Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu convened a meeting in the Knesset with the party leaders in the right wing ultra-orthodox bloc. Like last year, they all agreed to continue to coordinate as one bloc under Netanyahu’s leadership aiming to form a government together.
  • Blue and White have said they will not serve in a government led by Netanyahu because of his impending criminal trial on 17 March.  Similarly, the Joint List  and Labour- Gesher- Meretz confirmed they would not join a Netanyahu government.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman continues to insist he will also not serve in a government with what he calls the “ultra-orthodox-messianic bloc.”  He also said he would do all he could to prevent a fourth election.
  • The centre-left bloc with, Lieberman’s support, now have a 62 seat blocking majority that can prevent Netanyahu forming a Government.

Context: While all sides wait for the final results, the top priority for the right-wing bloc is to find enough defectors to build a 61 seat majority. There are several candidates potentially ripe for the move, however at this point they are all staying loyal to their parties. Likud are thought to be targeting Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich, as she has allegedly criticised Benny Gantz’s leadership. According to Channel 12 News, her husband is affiliated to the ultra-orthodox community and “would not go against the rabbis.”

  • The rules for single defectors are quite restrictive, they are prohibited from being appointed ministers or deputy ministers but can be made Knesset Committee chairs.
  • Also within Blue and White; MK Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel have both worked for Netanyahu and are considered on the right flank of Blue and White. The leader of Gesher, Orly Levy-Abecassis is also seen as a prime target as she only formed an electoral alliance with Labour as part of a joint list that gives her more parliamentary freedom for her faction to break away. She was formerly part of Yisrael Beiteinu and her father David Levy is a former Likud minister. Likud Minister Yisrael Katz said yesterday that she would make “an excellent health minister.”
  • In the April 2019 election, the right-wing bloc had 60 seats and failed to attract a single defector. With the right-wing bloc now needing three defectors there could be another stalemate leading to a fourth election.

Looking ahead: The remaining absentee ballots will be counted today, with a final result expected to be announced this evening. The absentee votes include soldiers, prisoners, Israeli diplomats abroad and those quarantined with suspected exposure to coronavirus.

  • The official election results will be presented by Judge Hendel, the head of the central election committee, to President Rivlin on 10 March. The president will then hold consultations with all the party leaders and by 17 March (at the latest) he will invite the party leader with the most realistic chance to form a government to begin negotiations with other party leaders. That leader will have 28 days to form a government, with a possible 14 day extension.