Jerusalem Eureka News Now —
Former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu was on the verge of a triumphant return to Israeli office as early election polls suggested he may have won a narrow majority in the country’s fifth national election in less than four years.
If the exit polls are correct — a big if — Netanyahu and his political allies appear to be on track to win the most seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
As expected, initial exit polls from the country’s three major broadcasters late Tuesday indicated that neither party has won enough seats to govern alone, meaning it will be necessary to form a coalition government.
The exit polls assume that pro-Netanyahu parties would take 61 or 62 of the 120 seats in parliament. The alliance consists of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, Religious Zionism/Jewish Power, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
The alliance, which supports current Prime Minister Yair Lapid and consists of Yesh Atid, National Unity, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labour, Meretz and Ra’am, was poised to take 54 or 55 seats, according to the exit polls.
The Arab party Hadash/Taal, which is unlikely to support either side, should secure four seats, according to exit polls.
The election was marked by the highest turnout since 2015. The Central Electoral Committee said 71.3% of eligible voters cast their ballots, more than in any of the last four elections that have resulted in stalemates or short-lived governments.
Netanyahu spent the final weeks of the campaign storming the country in a truck converted into a travel stage clad in bulletproof glass. Pro-Netanyahu ads – and ads that make his opponents look dodgy – were plastered on the sides of the buses.
It is not yet certain that Netanyahu will make a comeback after being outmaneuvered by Lapid after last year’s election.
The exit polls are only projections based on interviews with voters on Tuesday, not official results. Results can – and in the past have had to – change during election night. Official results may not be final until Wednesday or even Thursday.
Once the official results are in, President Isaac Herzog will invite the politician he believes is best placed to form a government to coalition talks.
A return of Netanyahu to the top of the government could mean fundamental changes in Israeli society.
A Netanyahu government would almost certainly include the newly emerging Jewish nationalist alliance of religious Zionism and Jewish power, whose leaders include Itamar Ben Gvir, once convicted of inciting racism and supporting terrorism.
If the exit polls are correct, the far-right alliance would more than double its representation in the Knesset. The group had six seats in the outgoing Parliament; Exit polls assume they won 14 or 15 seats this time.
Asked by Eureka News Now on Tuesday about fears he would lead a far-right government if he returns to office, Netanyahu responded with an apparent reference to the Ra’am Party, which made history last year by becoming the first Arab party ever to do so joined a governing coalition in Israel.
“We don’t want a Muslim Brotherhood government that supports terrorism, denies the existence of Israel and is quite hostile to the United States. That’s what we’re going to bring,” Netanyahu told Eureka News Now in English at his polling station in Jerusalem.
And Netanyahu’s allies have talked about making changes to the justice system. That could put an end to Netanyahu’s own corruption trial, in which he pleaded not guilty.
Netanyahu himself was a key issue not only in Tuesday’s election but in the four previous ones, in which voters – and politicians – split into camps based on whether they voted the man commonly known as Bibi to the want power or not.
Part of the difficulty in building a stable government in the last four elections has been that even some political parties aligned with Netanyahu on issues have refused to work with him for personal or political reasons.
Regardless of whether the exit polls are correct or not, they are exit polls only, not official results.
It will take some time to get the official results – they could be ready as early as Wednesday, but it could be Thursday before the final composition of the 25th Knesset in Israel is finalized.
That’s partly because parties must win at least 3.25% of the total vote to get any seats in the Knesset, a threshold created to facilitate coalition-building by keeping very small parties out of the legislature .
To determine how many seats each party gets, election officials must first determine which parties have crossed the threshold. Then they can calculate how many votes it takes to win a single seat in the Knesset and allocate seats to the parties based on the number of votes they received.
That’s where the actual spinning and trading begins.
Even if the election results look like a dead end, there’s a slim chance a savvy negotiator can put together a surprise coalition like Lapid did last year.
On the other hand, even if one or the other leader appears on paper to have the support to form a majority government, they still have to persuade the smaller parties into coalition deals.
And these smaller parties will have demands — control of specific ministries, funding of projects or programs important to their constituents, enactment of new laws, or scrapping of old laws.
Potential prime ministers must balance the competing demands of rival coalition partners, who everyone knows hold the keys to taking office as a head of government.
And whoever becomes prime minister – if anyone – will face the same problems.
The cost of living is skyrocketing in Israel, as in so many other places, energy and food bills are skyrocketing. A poll this summer by the Israel Democracy Institute found that a party’s economic platform was by far the factor most often cited as a reason for voters’ choice. Almost half (44%) of Israeli voters said it was the most important factor, well ahead of a quarter (24%) who said the party leader was the deciding factor.
Any new prime minister will also have to grapple with the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militias, which has claimed more lives on both sides this year than at any time since 2015.
Israeli forces have been conducting frequent raids in the occupied West Bank — particularly Jenin and Nablus — for months and say they are trying to detain known attackers and confiscate weapons.
As a strategy, it does not appear to have reduced the level of violence: at least one Israeli civilian was shot dead near Hebron in the West Bank on Saturday, and others were wounded in the same incident — as were two medics who responded. an Israeli and a Palestinian. A day later, a Palestinian rammed his car into five Israeli soldiers near Jericho. Both Palestinian attackers were killed in a cycle of violence that the new prime minister will have to deal with – if there is indeed a new prime minister as a result of Tuesday’s vote.