Israel election: Netanyahu falls short of majority amid vote count

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu could struggle to secure enough seats to stay in power, incomplete results from Tuesday’s election show.

With nearly 90% of votes counted, his right-wing bloc is eight seats short of the threshold to form a government.

A rival right-wing party would so far add another seven seats if it throws its weight behind Mr Netanyahu.

The final results will among other things determine the course of Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu – Israel’s longest-serving leader – has promised to form a right-wing government led by his Likud party.

A smaller right-wing party, Yamina, led by former Netanyahu loyalist Naftali Bennett, could hold the balance of power, but has not explicitly declared whether it will support Mr Netanyahu’s efforts to form a government or those of opposition parties wanting to remove him.

“I will do only what is good for the State of Israel,” Mr Bennett said after voting ended on Tuesday night.

He added that he had told Mr Netanyahu that Yamina would await the final results before deciding on its next steps.

Mr Netanyahu thanked his supporters in a tweet late on Tuesday. “You gave a huge win to the right and Likud under my leadership. Likud is the biggest party by far.”

“It’s clear most Israelis are right-wing, and want a strong, stable right-wing government,” he added.

Meanwhile the main opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party is projected to win about 17 seats, said he was “proud” of his party’s “enormous” achievement.

I have already begun this evening to hold talks with some of the leaders of the bloc for change and will continue in the next few days,” he said, adding that he would “do everything possible to establish a sane government in the State of Israel”.

Just over 67.2% of those eligible cast their ballots in the election, which was widely seen as a referendum on Mr Netanyahu’s leadership.

The 71-year-old prime minister has been in power continuously since 2009, having served an earlier three-year term in the late 1990s.

His campaign focused on Israel’s world-leading Covid-19 vaccination programme and his diplomatic success in normalising ties with some Arab countries.

But his opponents from across the political spectrum argued that he should not remain in office while standing trial on corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing.

After the previous three elections neither Mr Netanyahu nor his rivals were able to form a stable governing coalition.

The current national unity government, which was the result of a power-sharing deal with Defence Minister Benny Gantz, collapsed in December after just seven months.

Mr Gantz, whose Blue and White party is projected by the exit polls to win seven seats, said on Tuesday that he would “do everything I can to unite the pro-change bloc” – a reference to those wanting a new prime minister.

If negotiations to form a government fail again, it could force a fifth election.

BBC News

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