In one of the tightest elections in the history of the state, where no clear winner has emerged and both the Likud and the Gantz-Lapid team have both declared victory, it appears the smaller parties will be the ones to decide who will form Israel’s next government.
Two pivotal Likud coalition members have both expressed their support for a fourth consecutive term for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm: the Kulanu party headed by Moshe Kahlon, and the Sephardic Shas party headed by Aryeh Deri.
Both spoke with Netanyahu after the polls closed at 10 pm Tuesday night, when numerous exit polls showed the Likud with a range of up to 36 seats, and the Gantz-Lapid “Blue and White” party with a range of up to 37 mandates.
Likewise, the United Torah Judaism party has refused to enter talks with the Blue-and-White Party. UTJ party chairman Yaacov Litzman told Netanyahu that he intends to recommend him to President Reuven Rivlin as the candidate to form the government coalition.
Former Likud coalition partner Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, however, has refused to accept calls from either side. Liberman said he is waiting until the actual votes are all counted.
Although the exit polls are still indicating a razor-thin margin between Netanyahu and the Gantz-Lapid team, most analysts have said the Blue-and-White party doesn’t have the political clout, and necessary political acumen, to be able to put together the necessary support to build a government coalition.
In order for a candidate to win the prime minister’s seat, a candidate must prove to President Rivlin that he has the support of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members in the Israeli parliament – a feat Netanyahu has accomplished four times in his career, three times so far in the past decade.