With almost all votes counted, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has won the Israel elections, gaining an estimated 30 seats. Its nearest rival, the centre-left Zionist Union will only have 24 seats in the new Parliament.
Mr Netanyahu described the elections as a “great victory”, while Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has made an appeal for a national unity government with both major parties in it. “I am convinced that only a unity government can prevent the rapid disintegration of Israel’s democracy and new elections in the near future,” said Mr Rivlin.
Likud responded in a statement, saying “the prime minister spoke with all the party leaders who will take part in the new coalition”. Among them are Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, Yisrael Beitenu’s Avigdor Lieberman, Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon, Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni from United Torah Judaism and Shas’ Aryeh Deri.
Mr Netanyahu, who was trailing in the polls until election-day, managed to steer right-wing voters away from Israel’s smaller parties. Israel’s Prime Minister issued a controversial video on Facebook, after the voting had begun, in which he warned that: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the ballot booths.” The message has been labeled as racist by most of his rivals.
Mr Netanyahu promised in the campaign that if remained in power, the possibility of a Palestinian state would still not be possible, while construction in East Jerusalem and West Bank would continue.
These statements will probably deepen the diplomatic rift with Israel’s key foreign partner, the United States, but also with the European Union, for whom the continued failed peace process with the Palestinians is a major dissatisfaction.
Shelly Yachimovich, from the Zionist Union, described Mr Netanyahu’s comments as “horrendous”. “No Western leader would dare utter such a racist comment,” she wrote on Facebook.
The Arab voters favored a coalition of parties called the Joint List, which won 14 seats, claiming the third largest haul at the elections.
Mr Netanyahu will need the support of Moshe Kahlon, who is in charge of the Kulanu party, and it’s nine or 10 seats in the Knesset. Whoever forms government needs to merge a coalition of at least 61 seats to gain control of the 120-seat Knesset. Analysts suggest that Mr Netanyahu would aim for a larger coalition this time.\
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