Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to win a majority for his political bloc in Tuesday’s election, according to results released on Thursday night by the Central Elections Committee, making opposition leader Yair Lapid the most likely candidate to receive a mandate to form a government.
The Likud won 30 seats, Yesh Atid 17, Shas 9 and Blue and White 8. There are four parties with seven seats: Yamina, Labor, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu.
The four parties with six seats are the Joint List, Meretz, New Hope and the Religious Zionist Party. Ra’am (United Arab List) narrowly crossed the 3.25% electoral threshold with four seats.
Netanyahu’s camp of Likud, Shas, UTJ and the Religious Zionist Party, together with Yamina, remained at 59 seats, two short of a majority. The remaining 61 MKs are committed to replacing Netanyahu, with the exception of Ra’am, which has said it would be willing to join either side.
Lapid has met or spoken with the heads of Labor, New Hope, Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu since the election and will be meeting in upcoming days with the heads of Blue and White, the Joint List and Ra’am in an effort to build up what MKs in those parties are calling “the change bloc.”
The Yesh Atid leader intends to draft the support of the 61 MKs in those parties when they make their recommendations to President Reuven Rivlin, who will present his mandate to form a government on April 7.
The Likud released a statement saying that “the change bloc is a laundered term for an undemocratic bloc.”
“The only change they really want are bills that only exist in Iran that would cancel the democratic choice of more than a million citizens of Israel,” the Likud said.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar tweeted that it was now clear Netanyahu could not build a coalition, so a “government of change” should be built. He said he would set aside his ego to allow that to happen. Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said the first step should be taking over the Knesset and its key committees and passing a bill that would prevent a candidate under indictment from forming a government after the next election.
Earlier Thursday, Netanyahu’s chances of forming the next government were harmed by Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich ruling out joining a coalition that is in any way supported by Ra’am. Smotrich said that his ultra-nationalist party would not agree to a government that included Ra’am or relied on its support from outside the coalition.
“A right-wing government will not be established that is based on Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am Party. Period. Not from within, not from outside, not through abstaining, and not through any other Isra-bluff,” Smotrich wrote on Facebook Thursday morning.
“Terrorism supporters who deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state are not legitimate partners for any government,” he continued.
Smotrich also accused the Israeli Left of “persecuting” Netanyahu and for being “willing to sell the State of Israel to those who identify with the worst of its enemies.”
Senior Shas MK Itzik Cohen expressed support, however, for the idea of a right-wing, religious government supported in some way by Ra’am, saying the party had shown “huge bravery” by “taking a step to the Right” and demonstrating a willingness to join a government. He accused Smotrich of being an extremist himself.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Attorney Shuaa Mantzur, a member of Ra’am’s negotiation team, told Army Radio that from the Arab party’s point of view, it was impossible to be part of a coalition with Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, No. 3 on the Religious Zionist Party’s electoral list.