Israeli election results are slowly starting to trickle in. In a surprise upset, exit polls show that the "Likud is Our Home" party, the combined Netanyahu-Lieberman ticket, has gone from a hoped-for 45 seats in the 120 person Knesset to a paltry 31 seats. Newcomer politician/former longtime journalist Yair Lapid, heading "There Is A Future", a center-left party, is the big shocker, gaining an estimated 18-19 seats, even upsetting the left-wing Labor party headed by Shelly Yachimovich, who expected somewhere between 25-30 seats and wound up with an estimated 17. Another newcomer, Naftali Bennet, led his right-wing "Jewish Home" party to an estimated 12-13 seats, though up to several days ago, polls showed him earning up to 17-18 seats.
Other results include Shas and United Torah Judaism, (the Sefardic and Ashkenazic religious parties) winning an estimated 11-13 and 6 seats, respectively. Hopeful Tzipi Livni, who left politics after losing Kadima party leadership to Shaul Mofaz, returned and won a meager 6 seats. She still did better than Mofaz, however, who went from leading Israel's largest political party in the last elections to not even earning one seat in these elections. Ultra left-wing party Meretz won 6-7 seats, while ultra right-wing party "Power to Israel" won 0-2 seats, depending on the poll. The three Israeli-Arab parties, Hadash, Raam-Taal and Balad, earned an estimated 3-5, 3-4 and 2 seats, respectively.
First of all, it's important to note that these are from exit polls which have proven highly accurate in the past, but are not definite. Concrete answers will probably start coming in closer to tomorrow morning Israel time.
And now some analysis: Netanyahu is obviously the big loser here, while Lapid is the big winner. Netanyahu's low number of seats makes his building a coalition extremely difficult, and several options are open to him:
1) If Netanyahu chooses to go the religious path, than Likud is Our Home, Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism combine for an estimated 62-63 seats, a win by a narrow margin.
2) If Netanyahu chooses to remove Shas from the coalition, something many Israelis have been clamoring for (mainly to remove the benefits the Ultra-Orthodox are getting, as well as their not serving in the IDF), then Netanyahu can choose to maintain his legitimacy by combining a Likud is Our Home, There Is A Future and Jewish Home also gives him an estimated 62-63 seats.
If Netanyahu can't create a coalition (which is a definite possibility), then President Shimon Peres will then pass responsibility to create a coalition on to the next largest party. The only way Lapid can create a large enough bloc is by combining ALL 7 of the center, left-wing and Arab parties, AND convincing one of the right-wing parties to join his coalition.
There is a very real chance that Israel may see another round of elections, seeing as both blocs are too close to really form a decent coalition. Either way, unless something drastically changes, the election results dictate that Netanyahu will have to tone down both his hawkish views as well as his rhetoric. What this says for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no one really knows.
So, as districts report in with actual accurate results, now we wait and see who actually got what and what the government will look like.
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