With 99 percent of the votes counted, it seems that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have a hard time creating the next coalition. Despite Netanyahu’s significant lead over rival parties, the right-wing and left-wing blocs are now evenly matched with 60 seats each.
Netanyahu’s Likud, which ran together with Yisrael Beytenu, took 31 seats. In second place is Yesh Atid with 19 seats, followed by Labor with 17.
Shas and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) won 11 seats each. Yahadut HaTorah (Gimmel) got 7 seats, an increase over its current six.
Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party got 6 seats, the Jewish-Arab Hadash party took 4 4, Meretz appears to have 6, the other Arab parties together earned 7, and Kadima appears to have passed the voting threshold with just 2 seats. Otzma L'Yisrael (Strong Israel, led by MK Michael Ben Ari) may not have made it into the Knesset.
While the numbers do not quite add up, as the final calculations have not been completed, the final breakdown will apparently leave current coalition members Likud, Bayit Yehudi and the hareidi-religious parties Shas and Yahadut HaTorah with a total of 60 seats, and Yesh Atid, Labor, Hatenua, Meretz, Kadima and the Arab parties with a total of 60 seats.
Netanyahu may be able to include Yesh Atid in his coalition.
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, a longtime popular TV anchor until exactly one year ago, and son of the former far-left secular Shinui party head Tommy Lapid, defines his party as centrist rather than left-wing, and has not ruled out the possibility of joining a Likud-led coalition.
However, the party’s strong stance in favor of mandatory IDF recruitment for hareidi-religious yeshiva students may make it difficult for Netanyahu to include both Lapid’s party and the hareidi-religious parties in a coalition. The dilemma will undoubtedly raise the necessity of negotiations for a compromise -- at best -- over the critical and delicate issue.