EXPLANATOR: Who won the last elections in Israel?

For the fifth time in four years, Israelis went to the polls, and once again no clear winner immediately emerged.

Israeli media exit polls gave former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist and religious allies a slight advantage Wednesday morning, but the final tally could change as the official tally comes in .

Already there was talk that a small Arab nationalist party could play havoc, leaving Netanyahu and his opponents evenly divided in the Knesset, or parliament, and putting the country on track for a new election early in the year. next year.

Meanwhile, a Jewish ultranationalist faction was to become the third largest party in the Knesset. He would gain unprecedented clout in a Netanyahu-led government — but only if he can be trained.

Here is an overview of the election results.



Official results won’t be out until later this week, but polls by Israel’s three main TV channels predict Netanyahu and his allies will win 61-62 seats in the 120-member Knesset, just enough to form a government. .

His opponents, a range of parties from all political stripes currently led by caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a political centrist, were expected to win 54 seats.

A small Arab nationalist party, Balad, would be close to the electoral threshold of 3.25% of the vote. If he crossed that threshold, he would gain four seats and wipe out Netanyahu’s advantage. If he fails, those votes would be wasted, strengthening Netanyahu’s camp.

No political party has ever won an outright majority in Israel, so big parties like Netanyahu’s Likud must assemble majority coalitions with smaller ones, which can involve weeks of negotiations. This process can only really begin once the official results are known.



This election, like the previous four dating back to 2019, was largely centered on Netanyahu, who is on trial on serious corruption charges and remains a deeply polarizing figure.

Netanyahu was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, serving in the post for 12 consecutive years – after an initial three-year term in the 1990s – before being ousted by a broad but fragile coalition last year.

His supporters see him as a champion of the Israeli nationalist right and a master of the state who has been witch-hunted by political opponents in Israel’s judiciary, law enforcement and media.

Netanyahu’s critics view him as a trickster who threatens Israel’s democratic institutions by putting his legal troubles above the national interest.

With the focus on Netanyahu, the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was left on the back burner in recent elections, even as violence escalated and hardliners on both sides have gained popularity.



The only clear winner in the election so far is Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right politician who moved from Israel’s ultranationalist fringe to the mainstream as the country drifted to the right over the past two decades. .

His Religious Zionism faction, officially led by another far-right figure, Bezalal Smotrich, is expected to win 14-15 seats and become the third largest party in the Knesset. If Netanyahu forms a government, Ben-Gvir is expected to seek a cabinet post as minister in charge of police.

Ben-Gvir is a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane, an anti-Arab racist who called for the mass deportation of Palestinians and stripping Arabs of Israeli citizenship. His Kach party was banned in Israel and banned as a terrorist organization in the United States, and Kahane was shot in 1990.

Ben-Gvir, who was convicted of inciting and supporting terrorism years ago and who has represented Jewish extremists facing similar charges, has been careful to publicly distance himself from Kahane’s more extreme beliefs. .

But he has consistently called for the deportation of Arab lawmakers, the death penalty for convicted terrorists and greater immunity for Israeli security forces fighting Palestinian militants.

Ben-Gvir also makes frequent and provocative appearances in areas where Israeli-Palestinian tensions are high, often heightening them in front of television cameras. Last month, he waved a handgun in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood while shouting at police to shoot Palestinian stone throwers.



If the exit polls hold and Netanyahu is able to form a government with his natural allies, it would be the most extreme right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.

Any peace talks with the Palestinians, which collapsed shortly after Netanyahu last became prime minister in 2009, would be virtually unthinkable. That could heighten tensions with the Biden administration, which supports a two-state solution, as well as with Israel’s allies in the United States, particularly the more liberal Jewish-American community.

A Netanyahu-led government could enact reforms that would remove its legal problems, which critics say would undermine Israel’s democracy and rule of law.

Netanyahu’s supporters have sought to assuage those concerns, saying any changes to the legal code would not apply in his case and that it can dampen more extreme coalition partners like Ben-Gvir. But that could prove difficult if – as the polls project – religious Zionism accounts for a quarter of the coalition’s seats in parliament.

If Netanyahu fails to form a government, the country will most likely go to elections again in March, potentially giving him another chance to return to power.

Joseph Krauss, Associated Press


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