The Likud and Kadima parties harshly criticized each other on Thursday night as both vied for the privilege of forming the next ruling coalition. While Kadima is in the lead with 28 seats to Likud's 27, right-wing and religious parties have more total mandates than Kadima and the political left.
As the final votes were tallied and Kadima was announced the official winner, the party released a statement accusing Likud of trying to steal the elections. “This evening needs to put an end to the attempt to steal Israel's government led by Netanyahu and the Likud businessmen,” the party said.
Kadima spokesmen called on Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to join a unity government led by Kadima head Tzipi Livni. “Kadima won and it's the biggest party,” they said. “Netanyahu should answer Tzipi Livni's call and join her in creating a unity government under her leadership.”
Likud answered by accusing Kadima of failing to accept reality. The statement from Kadima “shows how it continues to play by spinning a fake reality instead of recognizing the political reality.”
"Most Israelis want Netanyahu as Prime Minister, and clearly rejected Kadima's failed policies,” the statement continued.
Netanyahu has also proposed a unity coalition that would include both Kadima and Likud, but insists that it be led by Likud.
President Shimon Peres has not yet announced which party will be selected to assemble the next coalition. According to protocol, he first hears the recommendation of all the political factions elected to Knesset and then assigns the task of putting together a coalition government to any Knesset member he deems able to do so. The heads of several parties, including the now third-largest party Yisrael Beiteinu, are not revealing their preference.