Benjamin Netanyahu won his election

Prime Minister Netanyahu will win elections in Israel, formation of a government uncertain

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On the afternoon of the election, which was Israel's fourth in two years, the big nerve twitched. "Come on, vote, otherwise there is still a choice," warned Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party on Twitter. "The ultra-Orthodox are flocking to the polling stations!" Warned anti-religious politician Avigdor Liberman. And Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionists Party complained that apparently some of his voters would rather clean their apartments for Passover than exercise their right to vote. "Cleaning is important, but voting is also possible," he pleaded.

The polling stations closed on Tuesday at 10 p.m. local time. A final result is not yet available. After counting 90 percent of the votes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly ahead of opposition leader Yair Lapid. The incumbent has 30 seats, Lapid's list has 18 seats. However, the picture can still shift until all votes are counted, which is not expected before Friday.

In any case, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of a "huge victory". Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that his Likud party leads "immensely" ahead of Lapid's Yesh Atid (There is a future). He thanked the citizens of Israel. "You gave the Right and the Likud a huge victory under my leadership." It had become clear that a majority of Israelis wanted a "strong and stable right-wing government".

Does that make Netanyahu the election winner? No. "In Israel it is not parties that win an election, but blocs," says political analyst Eytan Gilboa from Bar Ilan University. No matter how strong a party may be, if it can't find a partner, it won't do any good. Netanyahu's long-term relationship with the ultra-Orthodox parties has survived the Corona period unscathed thanks to his tolerance for lockdown-reluctant rabbis. You and the Religious Zionists bring Netanyahu to 59 seats - the parliamentary majority is 61 seats. The anti-Netanyahu camp may have more seats than expected with 56 seats, but it is also not enough for a government majority. The Arab Raam party passed the 3.25 percent hurdle and is now tipping the scales.

Pros or Cons of Bibi?

This is where the "who with whom" game begins, in which there are many losers and hardly any winners. This also explains why Israel failed to get a sustainable government despite three ballots. It's hardly about content anymore. Israel's political landscape is divided into two camps along a disgraceful axis: pro Bibi and contra Bibi - that is Netanyahu's nickname. Both camps can only dream of a secure majority.

Benny Gantz illustrates what happens when a politician presents himself as a bitter opponent of Netanyahu before the election, but then makes a deal with him: The former opposition leader and current deputy prime minister received 33 seats a year ago, now the exit polls see him in seven parliamentary seats . His blue-and-white party has crumbled, but he didn’t miss the opportunity to compete - but this time guaranteed against Bibi, he promised.

The anti-Netanyahu camp is fissured. Apart from the consensus that after eleven years Netanyahu a change of power is necessary, it has nothing in common. It unites left, right, anti-Arab agitators and Arabs. Even if the bloc is strong enough in the election results to win a majority in parliament - a stable government looks different.

Clever positioning

Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yamina Party was smart enough not to commit. He made himself scarce in order to be able to get a lot out of coalition negotiations. Netanyahu was also clever when he persuaded the national religious Bezalel Smotrich to enter into an alliance with hardliner Itamar Ben-Gvir. Separately, both would not have managed to move in. Now they seem to succeed - and Netanyahu is sure of the support of the right wing list. He accepts that Ben-Gvir's right-wing line is too extreme for many Likudniks.

In order to make the election suitable for an epidemic, the electoral authority came up with some ideas. A taxi hotline has been set up through which people infected with Covid and self-isolated can be transported to polling stations set up especially for them. The votes cast there are then taken to Jerusalem and counted there. That takes time - the final result could not be available until Thursday. (Maria Sterkl from Jerusalem, March 23, 2021)

Note: The article is continuously updated depending on the counting status.