July 15, 2024
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Record Voter Turnout Yields Big Win for Netanyahu

JERUSALEM—In one of the most dramatic Israeli Elections in recent history, it was announced Wednesday morning that the Likud Party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had won the election for the Twentieth Knesset. Tuesday’s election attracted 68.37% of eligible voters, the highest that Israeli polls have seen since 1999, and defied the expectations of nearly every media projection with the current ruling party beating its closest competitor, the Zionist Union, by nearly 200,000 votes.

Some of the smaller parties running in the election, such as the right-wing religious Yachad party and highly controversial Green Lead party, missed the minimum threshold of four seats by less than 50,000 votes, leaving them out of the Twentieth Knesset.

The big question is, what happens next? Throughout the weekend, President Rivlin will speak to the heads of each of the victorious parties to take their input on who should be the next Prime Minister, and will issue his decision on Wednesday. Given the fact that the right wing parties of the next Knesset hold a clear majority and the Joint Arab List has already refused to take part in a government led either by Netanyahu or Herzog, it is likely that Netanyahu will be given the green light to build a coalition.

Many news sources have reported that Netanyahu was already in contact with potential coalition members shortly after the exit polls were released on Tuesday evening. He has already been assured the backing of Naftali Bennet’s Jewish Home party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party, and also reached out right away to the heads of Kulanu, Shas, and United Torah Judaism, in order to try to garner a small majority of 67 seats, enough to form the next government. Although President Rivlin’s decision will not be released until Wednesday, most believe that he will allow Netanyahu to build this right-wing religious nationalist government.

Many attribute Likud’s victory in the polls, one which was very much at odds with the final projections by news outlets, to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration on Monday that he would not allow for the establishment of a Palestinian State, at odds with his previous policy and with the expectations of the international world. While this allowed him to gain many right-wing votes which may have otherwise gone to other parties, giving him a bigger victory over Zionist Union, this new policy rejects the Two State Solution and puts Israel at odds with even its closest allies.

Despite recent findings that the State Department may have helped fund Israeli NGO Victory2015 (V15), one of the main supporters of the unsuccessful Zionist Union campaign and creator of the “Anyone but Bibi” slogan, President Obama “remains committed to working very closely with the winner of the ongoing elections to cement and further deepen the strong relationship between the United States and Israel…,” according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Only time will tell if healthy relations can continue between two very similar nations with such radically different leaders.

By Tzvi Silver, JLNJ Israel Correspondent

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