Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, claimed victory in Monday’s vote over his main challenger, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White, after exit polls projected his party had come out on top.
|Netanyahu ahead in Israeli election, but still lacking governing majority
But with nearly three-quarters of the votes counted, Netanyahu appeared three seats short of a majority in Israel’s parliament, a gap signaling there may be deadlock yet again.
A win for Netanyahu, 70, after inconclusive ballots in April and September, would be testimony to the political durability of Israel’s longest-serving leader, who fought the latest campaign under the shadow of a looming corruption trial.
It would also pave the way for Netanyahu to make good on his pledge to annex, after the election, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the region’s Jordan Valley, under a peace plan presented by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Palestinians have rejected the proposal, saying it was killing their dream of establishing a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
With about 72% of votes counted, Likud led Blue and White by 35 seats to 32. Together with right-wing and religious parties, Netanyahu could build a 58-seat coalition, short of a majority in the 120-seat parliament.
Unless things shift as the remaining votes are tallied, another round of complicated political negotiations awaits.
In the previous election, in September, Blue and White edged past Likud, taking 33 seats to its rival’s 32, but Gantz, like Netanyahu, was unable to put together a ruling coalition.
The mostly Arab Joint List party again emerged as the third-largest party, apparently growing to 17 seats from 13 in the last election.