Netanyahu snubbed, but not snuffed

Israeli election ends in a dead heat

  • Likud falls one seat short of right-wing/religious majority
  • Premier forced to compromise – but will it make a difference?
Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu fell one short of a majority for the right-wing and religious parties in a dead heat election that gave the right and the religious parties 60 seats and the centre, left and Arab parties 60 seats.
As a result Netanyahu will be forced to enter into talks with newly-formed centrist party Yesh Atid, whose television presenter leader Yair Lapid says he will not join a coalition unless the prime minister promises to push for peace with Palestinians.
If he had one more seat, Netanyahu would have been able to form a majority with the ultra-rightwing party Jewish Home, whose policy is to block the formation of a Palestinian state and to annex more than half of the West Bank.
Netanyahu’s own party fell back from 42 seats to 31, which was a snub for him personally, but does not imply increased support for peace talks with the Palestinians. On the contrary, the votes he lost switched to the more extreme Jewish Home, who gained the 11 seats he lost.
Netanyahu’s party has also swung further to the right as a result of an electoral with Avigdor Lieberman’s Beitenu party and internal elections which promoted settlers’ leaders such as Moshe Feiglin, banned from entering Britain because of his racist views.
But even if there is a centre-right coalition in Israel, the “two-state solution” is in mortal dangerdanger, if not already in its grave. A Guardian survey of Israeli academics last week forecast that “the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead if Benyamin Netanyahu wins the election – even if he forms a government with centrists rather than the ultra-nationalist party Jewish Home”.
Yair Lapid hardly mentioned the Palestinian issue during the election campaign and nor did the new Labour Party leader Shelley Yakhimovich, playing to the Israeli voters’ almost total lack of interest in the peace process with the Palestinians
The relentless shift of Israeli politics towards the extreme right have meant that Tsipi Livni’s Hatnua and Kadima, the remnant of Ariel Sharon’s party, regarded only a couple of elections ago as on the extreme right, are now being reclassified as “centre” parties.
The left-wing party, Meretz, is the only Jewish Israeli party still committed to withdrawal from the West Bank and they doubled their seats, but only from three to six.
The three parties supported mainly by Palestinian Israelis failed to increase their meagre tally of 12 seats.  Haneen Zoabi, the MP who sailed to Gaza on the Mavi Marmara and was stripped of her parliamentary privileges by her fellow MPs, campaigned for Palestinians to vote in greater numbers. As they are a fifth of the population they should have 24 seats but less than 50% of them vote.
The final result found the scales balanced perfectly between the religious parties and the right on one side and the centre parties and the left or Palestian parties on the other.
Religious 18: Shas 11, United Torah Judaism 7
Right 42: Likud-Beitenu 31, Jewish Home 11
Centre 42: Yesh Atid 19, Labour 15, Hatnua 6, Kadima 2
Left/Palestinian 18: Meretz 6, United Arab List-Ta’al 5, Hadash 4, Balad 3

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