Israel Vote Deadlock Confirmed After Near-Complete Official Poll Results

Monday, 23 Sep, 2019

Likud's leader and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called upon his major rival, White and Blue leader Benny Gantz, to form a unity government.

Netanyahu's ruling right-wing Likud party took 32 seats in the Knesset (Parliament), one behind Gantz's centrist Blue and White formation, according to the nearly complete vote count, meaning both fell well short of a majority, reports Efe news. Rivlin has said he will do everything possible to avoid such a scenario and no one appears interested in a third Israeli election within a year. An appeal by Netanyahu for Gantz to meet and discuss a unity government was rejected Thursday, with Gantz making clear that as leader of the largest party he meant to become Israel's next prime minister. "The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation".

Current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Netanyahu for his "important call", saying that "I hear well the voices calling for the establishment of a unity government".

"A national unity government, a broad liberal government".

After a second election this year produced no decisive victor, neither candidate appears able to form a coalition and the focus has turned to the option of a government with the two biggest parties: Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Blue and White.

Mr Netanyahu's Likud party put out a furious statement in response. But it's unclear whether Lieberman will join Gantz's side either, which makes predicting the resolution of the current muddle hard. Blue and White's left-wing coalition makes up just 44 seats with Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union, which would jump to 57 if the Joint List of Arab parties were to join a coalition. Netanyahu's Likud party won 31 seats, but neither side gained enough support from smaller parties to form a 61-seat ruling bloc in the 120-seat parliament. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz is seen as having a smooth path ahead toward cobbling together a governing majority in parliament.

The Mossawa Centre rights group says Israel's state budget often favours Jews, allocating more funds to Jewish localities and schools than to Arab ones. "But we promised our constituents that we would do everything to topple Netanyahu and the default here is recommending Benny Gantz".

In November 2018, a year before the government's term was to end, Avigdor Lieberman resigned his post as defence minister and pulled his six-mandate Yisrael Beiteinu Party out of a stable, right-wing and religious coalition totalling 67 mandates.

Whilst Odeh's inclusion in any coalition now seems very remote, the more likely scenario that he may soon become Israel's first Palestinian-Israeli opposition leader is still quite possible.

There has been speculation that he could alternatively meet with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz and ask them to explore options for forming a unity government. Abbas was elected president in 2005 and Hamas won a 2006 parliamentary election, plunging Palestinian politics into a bitter power struggle from which it has not emerged.

Ehud Barak, another former prime minister, published an upbeat opinion column on Friday outlining his vision for Israel's next government.

Despite the efforts of Netanyahu supporters to prevent the elections by intimidating Palestinian voters last April, this time there was the highest voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Looming over the whole process is Netanyahu's pre-indictment hearing scheduled in two weeks, after which he could face charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three separate corruption cases.