Netanyahu falls two seats short of majority

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies do not have the necessary parliamentary seats to form a majority coalition, results from this week’s election showed on Thursday, as vote counting drew to a close.

The central election committee said it had counted nearly 100 percent of the ballots from Tuesday’s vote, with the results indicating a 59-seat bloc for the right-wing and religious parties that would join a Netanyahu-led coalition — two seats short of a majority.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier after 12 years in power, had hoped Tuesday’s election would finally allow him to unite a stable right-wing coalition behind him, after three inconclusive elections since 2019.

His party has emerged again as parliament’s largest, winning 30 seats out of the Knesset’s 120.

The wily 71-year-old politician said he would “not exclude anyone” in efforts to form a coalition, with Mansour Abbas, leader of the conservative four-seat Islamic Raam party, indicating he was open to supporting a Netanyahu-led, Jewish right-wing coalition under certain terms.

But on Thursday, head of the Religious Zionism list, Bezalel Smotrich, said “there won’t be a right-wing government with the support of Abbas”, effectively closing the door on a possible union between Israel’s Islamist and religious Jewish parties.

The “anyone but Netanyahu” bloc meanwhile garnered 61 seats, but a coalition of right-wing parties opposed to the premier joining forces with the left-wing and Arab Joint List was unlikely to emerge.

Gideon Saar, a veteran politician who quit Netanyahu’s Likud in December to lead the New Hope party, which won six seats, said it was “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,” he wrote on Twitter. “As I announced on election night: Ego will not be a consideration.”

The vote count will be completed by Friday morning, with the final result set to be presented officially to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday.


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