Likud’s own advertising cost it a right-wing majority in Knesset, MK Uri Orbach (Bayit Yehudi) claimed Wednesday.
Likud focused on attacking the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party in recent weeks, primarily by portraying its candidates as extremists. According to Orbach, the ads convinced many young voters not to vote for Bayit Yehudi – but instead of choosing Likud Beytenu, they turned left and voted for another new party, the Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid.
Lapid’s party was the surprise of the elections, winning 19 seats in place of the 11-12 that it had been predicted to receive.
Yesh Atid describes itself as centrist, and may be willing to join a coalition led by Netanyahu. However, with its unexpected size, the party may also have the option of aligning with the left and blocking a second consecutive term for Netanyahu, although its chances of forming a government are not realistic.
Orbach blamed the Otzma L'Yisrael party, as well, for the failure of the right wing and hareidi-religious parties to earn a majority of Knesset seats. The party, led by MK Michael Ben Ari and Dr. Aryeh Eldad, formerly of Ichud Leumi, failed to pass the threshold to enter Knesset and the roughly 60,000 votes it earned did not go toward more Knesset seats for the political right.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seemed unconcerned Wednesday by reports showing the right and left-wing blocs evenly matched with 60 seats each. In a statement he thanked Israelis for turning out to vote Tuesday. The left-wing bloc includes the Arab parties and since they have never been coalition partners, is not a relevant comparison.
“The results clearly show that Israel’s citizens want me to continue as Prime Minister,” he declared, “and want me to put together as broad-based a coalition as possible.” The new makeup of the Knesset provides an opportunity for “many changes,” he added.
Netanyahu’s apparent calm may indicate confidence that the Yesh Atid party will agree to join him in a coalition despite its inclusion in the left wing bloc in various media reports. Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid has previously indicated that he is willing to join any government that will agree to his party’s major platform points, including IDF enlistment for hareidi-religious yeshiva students.