JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s election on Tuesday unveiled a headline on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to win a majority, raising a broad question about his political future.
Preliminary and unofficial results, after counting about 90 percent of the vote, show that the far-right Israeli camp is far from the majority of 61 lawmakers, who are required to form a narrow right-wing government.
The results show, up to the hour, the Likud party fell to 31 seats compared to 33 for the Blue White Party, while the seats of the Arab joint list to 12 seats.
The Israeli Knesset (parliament) consists of 120 members, and in order to form a government, requires the ruling coalition to obtain the confidence of at least 61 members.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu seems well aware that his options are limited. Either form a government of national unity, or break the right-wing bloc, and go to his rival in a blue-white party, Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu did not wait for the official results to appear, as he hastened to reunite the right and justify his next move, using the scarecrow of “Arab participation” in the government of his opponent.
“Israel needs a strong and stable government, and Zionism,” he said. “There must be a government committed to the Jewishness of the state. There has never been and will not be a government that relies on Arab anti-Zionist parties.”
Observers of the 22nd Knesset elections questioned Netanyahu’s political future after failing to secure the required majority, saying that his future was “in doubt”, especially as these elections are expected to be the last for him, as he faces corruption charges, and winning the elections is a lifeline for him.
Ahmad Tibi, the candidate of the Arab Joint List for Knesset membership, said that the results of the legislative elections “dealt a blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
He added, in his statement to “Sky News Arabia” that “these elections confirm that the Netanyahu era is over .. We are proud of our fans who voted for us, and this gift we give them.”
“The results are a blow to Netanyahu and to US President Donald Trump as well,” he said.
Netanyahu is the longest-serving ruler in the country’s history, serving as head of government since 2009 after a first term from 1996 to 1999.
Pending completion of the vote count, the question remains: Has Netanyahu failed or is his term already over?