Israel elections: PM Benjamin Netanyahu again falls short of governing majority

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March 26 (UPI) — Final election results in Israel show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies have indeed fallen short of the required threshold to create a governing majority, meaning they again must seek a power-sharing deal with opposition parties.

Israelis went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in Israel’s fourth election in less than two years. The previous three resulted in the same need to find a coalition government.

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Final results released Thursday night show that Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 30 seats and allies of his party won 29 in the 120-member Knesset. Sixty-one seats are needed for a governing majority.

Before now, the last three elections led to failure because Netanyahu and other Israeli officials couldn’t agree on a governing alliance, or the coalition they did agree to collapsed.

Because a coalition government is needed once again — and because the same political gridlock exists in Jerusalem — the latest outcome at least raises the possibility that yet another election may be ordered before the year is over, if Netanyahu and opposition lawmakers repeat their failure to find an agreement.

In this week’s election, parties on the other side of the aisle from Netanyahu’s alliance won 57 seats.

One option for Netanyahu’s bloc is bringing the small United Arab List party into the coalition, which would be a first for Israeli politics. Some in the Likud Party have forcefully rejected the idea, although Netanyahu has some history of working with the UAL’s more moderate leaders.

Another option would be to convince some members of the New Hope Party, formed last year by former Likud member Gideon Sa’ar, to rejoin the prime minister’s group. The New Hope Party won six seats in this week’s election.

The final numbers confirmed what preliminary results showed earlier this week, that Netanyahu would come up short.

The most significant difference in the new election results was seen in the performance of the opposition Blue and White Party. The group, led by opposition leader and Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz, won only eight seats — after picking up 33 in the last election a year ago.

Most observers agree that the party lost support this time because Gantz entered into a power-sharing agreement with Netanyahu after the last election, and agreed to serve as his defense minister. Part of that agreement held that Gantz would succeed Netanyahu as prime minister in the near future.

Netanyahu prevailed in an election that tussled with a number of competing crises, including corruption charges against the prime minister and COVID-19.

“This round of elections was among the most challenging that the state of Israel has known,” Central Elections Committee chief Orly Adas said in The Washington Post.

“Beyond the fact that this is the fourth election in the past two and a half years, we experienced an enormous challenge in light of the coronavirus pandemic.”