De exit polls laten een gelijk aantal zetels voor Likud en de Zionistische Unie zien, reden ovor Likoed om alvast de overwinning uit te roepen. Hoewel het allemaal nog onzeker is, is de kans op een nieuwe rechtse regering hiermee wel het grootst. Die heeft dan wel de steun van beide ultra orthodoxe partijen nodig, en zou in totaal uit 6 partijen bestaan. Het is de vraag of dat een stabiele coalitie oplevert. De andere optie is een regering van nationale eenheid. Hiertoe zal president Rivlin mogelijk oproepen, maar hij is afhankelijk van het advies dat de verschillende partijen hem geven, en bepaalt op grond daarvan wie het eerst mag proberen een coalitie te vormen.
Exit polls show Netanyahu well placed to retain leadership of Israel
Likud neck and neck with Zionist Union in TV surveys as voting ends, but better positioned to form the next coalition
As voting ended in Israel’s Knesset elections Tuesday night, TV exit polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu well placed to retain the leadership, with his Likud party neck and neck with rival Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, but better positioned to build a coalition.
The process of building a government, nonetheless, will depend on the final results, as well as on whom the various party leaders recommend that President Reuven Rivlin entrust with the opportunity to form a coalition.
Vote counting continues through the night, with more conclusive figures expected in the small hours.
The exit polls, conducted by Israel’s three main television stations, showed Likud at 27-28 seats and Zionist Union at 27.
Netanyahu called the result a “great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel.”
Potential Likud ally Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Jewish Home was heading for eight-nine seats, and Avigdor Liberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beytenu was set for five seats. Together with the two ultra-Orthodox parties — Shas, which was expected to win seven seats, and the United Torah Judaism, which was heading for six-seven seats — this could give Netanyahu the firm basis for a right-wing/Orthodox coalition. Another potential coalition partner, Kulanu, led by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, was headed for 9-10 seats. That mix would give Netanyahu a narrow majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
On the other side of the aisle, Herzog’s natural ally, the left-wing Meretz party, was headed for five seats, while the centrist Yesh Atid was set to win 11-12 seats. Even with support inside or outside a coalition from the Arab Joint List, which looked set to score an impressive 12-13 seats, that would leave Herzog far short of a majority. Kahlon’s support, were it forthcoming, could give Herzog a blocking majority.
The election was initiated more than two years ahead of schedule by Netanyahu, who fired his finance minister Yair Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni in early December.
The campaign was largely seen as a referendum on the Likud leader, who is Israel’s second-longest-serving prime minister, having held the job since 2009 after a previous term in 1996-9.
It was marked by a gradual hardening of Netanyahu’s public positions on two key diplomatic-security issues: Iran’s nuclear program and peace efforts with the Palestinians. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu controversially addressed both houses of Congress in a speech lobbying against the emerging deal with Iran that is backed by US President Barack Obama. The timing and content of the address infuriated the White House and many Democrats, and rendered Israel a more partisan issue in the United States. It also divided Israelis, who largely share Netanyahu’s concerns over Iran but who were uncertain about whether the speech was worth the damage to US-Israel ties.
In a dramatic statement on Monday, meanwhile, Netanyahu flatly ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state if he were re-elected, reversing his previous support in principle for a two-state solution. His new stance puts him at odds with much of the international community, notably including Israel’s key American ally.
As he voted on Tuesday morning, Netanyahu vowed to form “a national government” in which his key partner would be the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home, and said he would not form a “unity government” with Herzog.
On election day itself, Netanyahu also repeatedly protested what he said was foreign funding that was helping to get out the Arab vote, and potentially skewing the elections. “There is nothing illegitimate with citizens voting, Jewish or Arab, as they see fit,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “What is not legitimate is the funding — the fact that money comes from abroad from NGOs and foreign governments, brings them en masse to the ballot box in an organized fashion, in favor of the left, gives undue power to the extremist Arab list, and weakens the right bloc in such a way that we will be unable to build a government — despite the fact that most citizens of Israel support the national camp and support me as the prime minister from Likud.”
He also castigated the leader of the Joint List: “Ayman Odeh, who supports Herzog, has already said not only that I must be replaced, but that I should be put in prison for defending the citizens of Israel and the lives of IDF soldiers [during last summer’s Gaza war]…. A left government that depends on such a list will surrender at every step, on Jerusalem, the 1967 lines, on everything,” Netanyahu railed, “and therefore there’s an immense effort of leftist NGOs to mobilize voters from the left bloc, primarily in the Arab sector, and in areas where leftists vote.”
Netanyahu’s increasingly hawkish statements reflected his successful effort to dissuade right-wing Israelis from voting for parties other than Likud, as opinion polls in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote showed Herzog gradually opening a three-to-four seat lead.
The Zionist Union leader, son of the late Israeli president Chaim Herzog and the grandson of Israel’s first chief rabbi, fought a fairly effective campaign, partnering his Labor party with Livni’s Hatnua and focusing on the socioeconomic issues that are high on many Israelis’ lists of prime concerns. He blamed Netanyahu for soaring house prices and for the relatively high overall cost of living and branded Netanyahu as out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of ordinary Israelis.
Herzog also stressed the imperative of preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, though he argued against Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. And he took a wary stance on the Palestinian issue — firmly backing a two-state solution, and declaring a readiness to evacuate isolated West Bank settlements, but also vowing to keep Jerusalem united and to seek sovereignty over major settlement blocs. In this respect, he reflected the stances of some of Labor’s more hawkish past leaders, such as the assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in a bid to avoid alienating potential voters from the center of the spectrum.