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      Netanyahu's Gov't Coalition Could Take A ‘Step to the Right’

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could form a coalition that is more right-wing than centrist, if he so chooses - but it requires work.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 1/24/2013, 8:44 AM

      Counting votes (archive)
      Counting votes (archive)
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could form a coalition that is more right-wing than centrist, if he so chooses -- but it will require some fancy footwork.  If all three religious parties presented a united coalition, the sum of the bloc’s seats would nearly equal those of Likud-Beytenu (31), automatically creating a religious-right coalition government. 

      Including what has become the country's second-largest party, centrist Yair Lapid's "Yesh Atid" (There is a Future) would of course seal the deal, with the 19 seats Lapid won Tuesday night, and also give Netanyahu much more room to maneuver with the fractious religious factions.

      The three religious parties – Jewish Home (11), the hareidi-religious Sephardic Shas party (11), and the Ashkenazi hareidi-religious United Torah Judaism (7) – see eye-to-eye on few issues. Nevertheless, they appear to agree on foundational issues that relate to the Land of Israel, the status of Jerusalem, the importance of ensuring that Israeli families get what they need, and security.

      Not all the votes have yet been counted: another 250,000 ballots from soldiers in the field, and votes from people in hospitals and inmates from prisons around the country have yet to be added to the final tally, expected Thursday.

      Dubbed “double envelope votes,” these ballots are listed in the army base or hospital as well as in the voter’s home town. The Central Elections Committee must double-check to ensure the voter did not cast his ballot twice, hence the “double envelope vote” appellation, and the delay in calculating the polls.

      It is possible that these numbers may yet change the picture, and could bring Otzma L’Yisrael (Strong Israel), led by MK Michael Ben Ari, back into the Knesset, or add a seat for Kadima, led by former IDF Chief of Staff-turned-MK Shaul Mofaz.  

      The ballots add up to a total of six or seven seats in the Knesset to various parties, but are counted a day later than the official tally, which came Wednesday night.