Editor (Asia – Middle East & Central)
TEL AVIV — Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has claimed victory after his Likud party won a second term in office, but he emerges with a bruised and much weaker image. Though polls had suggested an easy win, the right-wing leader only managed a narrow victory over his centre-left opponents, taking a share of a round 20 out of 120 seats on offer. Netanyahu will now reach out to the new centrist party in the 6 weeks that he has to form a coalition of 60 seats from the 9 parties now in Israel’s parliament.
In partnership with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beitenu, Likud won 31 seats. The newly formed Yesh Atid party, which was only set up last year and led by Yair Lapid, a former television news presenter, relatively inexperienced in the field of politics, emerged as the second biggest party with 19 seats after a campaign which focused on social issues. However, Lapid has said he will only join a coalition committed to focusing on peace relations with the Palestinians, large economic change and a reform that requires ultra-Orthodox Jews be required to carry out Israel’s mandatory national service.
The left continued to pick up seats with Labour, whose campiagn centred around economic concerns, winning 15 seats. They have ruled out joining a coalition with Netanyahu.
The right-wing block won half of the available seats in the Knesset. Orthodox religious Shas party won 11 seats as did Habayit Hayehud, a party which rejects any form of an independent Palestinian state. United Torah Judaism party, won seven.
After the votes were counted, Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the public and set out five main principles for the new coalition government, which included maintaining the stance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, regarded by the leader as an essential threat.
Netanyahu stated, “I believe the results of the elections represent an opportunity to make changes that the people of Israel want to see and (that) will serve all of the citizens of the state of Israel, I am going to seek as broad a government as possible”.
Netanyahu now faces a hard task, this was expect to be an easy victory for him but the result is a a strong message, a warning expressing the need for change. The voters were looking for something different, a moderate Israel after a election which focused more on domestic issues. Building a coalition will not be an easy task. Many expected a large shift to the right but this has not happened. Israelis currently have a strong concern about domestic policy, something which was neglected in Netanyahu mandate which heavily focused on security and suggest why Lapid, whose campaign focused on the middle class in a time of growing economic problems, was a close second. With such a narrow victory Netanyahu will obviously have to make some concessions. Consequently the coalition that will be formed looks likely to be less right-wing than most expected. We can only wait and see in what shape the government will emerge.
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons (Dolev, Cherie Cullen)