In the aftermath of the tightest election that Israel has seen in a long time, headlines all over the world are boldly declaring that “the Netanyahu era is over”. But that is not necessarily true. At this point it is going to be exceedingly difficult for anyone to put together a governing coalition, and as I will explain in this article, there are still a couple of ways that Benjamin Netanyahu could hold on to power. This is a drama that is probably going to take an extended period of time to unfold, and Avigdor Lieberman is in the catbird seat. The decisions that he makes in the coming days are going to be absolutely critical.
Let’s start by talking about the election results. With over 90 percent of the vote counted, the Blue and White party (Kahol Lavan) and Likud have almost the same number of seats…
With 91 percent of the votes counted, Kahol Lavan has won 32 out of 120 Knesset seats, with Likud behind with 31 seats. Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, currently stands at 55 seats. The center-left bloc has 56 seats.
Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is projected to have nine seats, is expected to be the election’s kingmaker. On Wednesday morning, he reiterated his support for a “broad liberal unity government,” which would include Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Kahol Lavan.
It may look like the Blue and White Party is just a few seats away from establishing a governing coalition, but that is not true at all.
The “56 seats” projected above includes the 13 seats won by the Joint List of Arab parties, and Benny Gantz has already ruled out any coalition that includes them.
Plus, if Gantz tried to include them in any coalition, he would immediately lose any hope of attracting Lieberman.
So at this point, it appears exceedingly unlikely that Gantz can get to the 61 seats that he needs to become the prime minister.