Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is yet to see if his promises of annexing more land and undermining the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, were enough to attract enough votes to continue a decade in power.
Challenging him for the premiership is another Benjamin, retired General ‘Benny’ Gantz who formed a new political bloc called Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) earlier this year.
After the voting ended on Tuesday, two out of three exit polls gave Gantz a lead over Netanyahu. Channel 12’s poll shows his party leading with 34 seats in the Knesset, while Netanyahu’s Likud’s getting 33. An exit survey by Channel 13 put Blue and White at 33 seats and Likud at 31, while another put the two parties dead even.
If the exit polling is anything to go by, whoever gets the most votes will still have a very difficult time setting up a coalition government. That requires the magic number of 61 seats in the Knesset for the bare-bones majority.
“Only time will tell whether the polls are correct, but certainly what we’re hearing at this stage is that there’s been no outright winner, this was a close contest,” said RT Middle East bureau chief Paula Slier.
Israel operates on a proportional representation system, with a low threshold of 3.25 percent, which means the many smaller parties will probably tip the balance between the two major ones.
“Neither of them has won an outright majority, and more importantly, neither of them – looking at these initial exit polls – is able to form a majority coalition government.”
“So what this means essentially is that the country finds itself right now in the same position it was in six months ago,” Slier added.
The election itself is a result of a failure to form a government following the vote in April, in which Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Blue and White were tied at 35 Knesset seats each, with smaller parties dividing the remaining 50. Neither managed to attract enough smaller parties to reach 61.