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Final election results suggest another deadlock

What happened: The final results of Tuesday’s election were published this morning.

  • The pro-Netanyahu bloc won 52 seats, and even if they were joined by Yamina, they would still only have 59 seats, two short of a majority.
  • The anti-Netanyahu bloc won 57 seats, which is also shy of the 61 needed for a majority.
  • The Islamist party Raam (United Arab List) with four seats could give either side the required advantage.
  • In order to remain in power Netanyahu is open to including Raam in his coalition. However, they are incompatible with some members of the Likud and the hard right Religious Zionists Party, who released a statement saying: “There will be no right-wing government that is based on Mansour Abbas’s United Arab List. Period. Not from the inside, not from the outside, not by abstention and not in some other guise. Terrorist-supporters who deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state are not legitimate partners in any government… it will not happen.”
  • Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, appears best placed to be asked to try and form the government first. He already has the backing of Yisrael Beiteinu, Meretz, Joint List and Blue & White. Last night he met with Labour leader Merav Michaeli where they agreed to cooperate to build a coalition for change.
  • Gideon Saar, the leader of New Hope, who had presented himself as a candidate for prime minister, appeared to endorse Lapid when he tweeted: “With the publication of the final results of the election, it is clear that Netanyahu does not have a majority to form a government under his leadership. Action must now be taken to realise the possibility of forming a government for change. As I announced on election night: Ego will not be a consideration.”

Context: The central question now is who will receive the mandate from President Rivlin to be granted the right to be first to try and form a viable coalition.

  • Although the Likud is by far the largest single party, it appears they do not have enough support (without Raam) to form the next government.
  • Although Raam is a conservative Islamic party, unlike the Joint List they do not rule out cooperation with anyone that is prepared to help advance the interests of the Israeli Arab community.
  • There is, however, a significant distinction between being asked to form the government and assembling a viable coalition.
  • Yair Lapid may be given the mandate first but will also find it difficult to build a stable coalition, as the bloc for change includes ideologically incompatible partners with both Yisrael Beiteinu and New Hope refusing to sit alongside the Joint List (or Raam).
  • In the next few days, various creative options will be explored by both sides. The Likud will try and tempt Blue & White into their coalition, as well as put heavy pressure on members of New Hope to ‘return home to the Likud.’
  • Another possibility for the anti-Netanyahu bloc could be to co-opt Yamina and Shas (at the expense of the Arab parties). This may include offering Naftali Bennett a rotation agreement to become prime minister. However, Bennett will be wary of the longer-term implications for his voters if he is to reject Netanyahu’s national-religious bloc.
  • Parallel to the formation of the government, when the new Knesset is worn in there could be steps taken to replace the Knesset speaker and advance a bill that will prevent a person charged of criminal offences from forming a government.

Looking ahead: While everyone waits for President Rivlin to begin the consultation process, senior political sources have confirmed “everyone is talking to everyone” in an effort to find a viable solution.

  • On Wednesday, President Rivlin will receive official results of the elections and the seven-day deadline holding consultations with the party leaders begins.
  • On 5 April Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trial resumes with cross-witness examinations.
  • The new Knesset will be sworn in on 6 April and will mark the opening session of the 24th Knesset.
  • 7 April is the deadline for Rivlin to task one party leader with forming the next government, who then has 28 days to try and do so.

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