Almost All The Votes Are Counted, And There Are 2 Ways That Benjamin Netanyahu

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    Tony Koretz

    Almost All The Votes Are Counted, And There Are 2 Ways That Benjamin Netanyahu Could Remain Prime Minister Of Israel

    In the aftermath of the tightest election that Israel has seen in a long time, headlines all over the world are boldly declaring that “the Netanyahu era is over”. But that is not necessarily true. At this point it is going to be exceedingly difficult for anyone to put together a governing coalition, and as I will explain in this article, there are still a couple of ways that Benjamin Netanyahu could hold on to power. This is a drama that is probably going to take an extended period of time to unfold, and Avigdor Lieberman is in the catbird seat. The decisions that he makes in the coming days are going to be absolutely critical.

    Let’s start by talking about the election results. With over 90 percent of the vote counted, the Blue and White party (Kahol Lavan) and Likud have almost the same number of seats…

    With 91 percent of the votes counted, Kahol Lavan has won 32 out of 120 Knesset seats, with Likud behind with 31 seats. Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, currently stands at 55 seats. The center-left bloc has 56 seats.

    Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is projected to have nine seats, is expected to be the election’s kingmaker. On Wednesday morning, he reiterated his support for a “broad liberal unity government,” which would include Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Kahol Lavan.

    It may look like the Blue and White Party is just a few seats away from establishing a governing coalition, but that is not true at all.

    The “56 seats” projected above includes the 13 seats won by the Joint List of Arab parties, and Benny Gantz has already ruled out any coalition that includes them.

    Plus, if Gantz tried to include them in any coalition, he would immediately lose any hope of attracting Lieberman.

    So at this point, it appears exceedingly unlikely that Gantz can get to the 61 seats that he needs to become the prime minister.

    Of course things don’t look promising for Netanyahu either, and as a result he felt forced to cancel his visit to the UN next week…

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday canceled a visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week amid political uncertainty in Israel, where he appeared to fall short of a government majority in national elections.

    With just 55 seats, Netanyahu’s coalition is 6 seats short of a governing majority, and so the answer would seem to be to pull in Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.

    But Lieberman and Netanyahu had a major falling out last November when Netanyahu refused to go to war with Hamas. Lieberman promptly resigned as defense minister, and he now says that he will not join any coalition if Netanyahu is the prime minister.

    Things certainly look bleak for now, but could it be possible that Netanyahu could find a way to repair that relationship?

    Maybe, but he would almost certainly have to give Lieberman just about everything that he wants, and that would include a military invasion of Gaza. Lieberman is literally holding Netanyahu’s political future in his hands, and he knows it. He may never have this sort of leverage ever again, and Lieberman is the sort of politician that will squeeze as much juice out of this moment as he possibly can.

    If Netanyahu can persuade Lieberman to join his coalition, and that is a very big “if”, then Netanyahu will get another term as prime minister.

    The other way that Netanyahu could remain prime minister is if nobody is able to form a coalition and another election is held a few months from now.


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