TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party gained almost 30 percent of the votes tallied so far by Tuesday afternoon, indicating a major victory that well surpasses its results in the previous two Israel elections.
The question remains as to whether or not the ruling party will be able to form a government on its own.
Some 97 percent of the 4,156,479 ballots cast in regular polling stations had been counted by Tuesday afternoon, CEC director-general Orly Ades said, with the remaining three percent undergoing checks for accuracy. Votes from soldiers, prisoners, diplomats, and those from the 14 coronavirus polling stations have yet to be tallied.
Almost 30 percent of the total votes went to Likud, which translates into 36 seats. The main rival Blue and White party nabbed 26.34 percent of the votes, equaling 32 seats and marking the worst outcome of the past year’s elections.
Likud’s coalition partners, Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) showed ten and seven seats, respectively, while Yamina gained about six seats, putting the right-wing bloc on 59 seats, two shy of the necessary 61-seat majority needed to form a government.
Even if the numbers do no’t change much once the rest of the votes are tallied, Netanyahu still has room to maneuver.
Blue and White’s likely coalition partners Labor-Gesher-Meretz won seven, the Joint List 15 and Yisrael Beytenu 7. The center-left bloc, sans Yisrael Beytenu, is predicted to win 52 seats.
Netanyahu on Tuesday morning declared a “massive victory.”
“We stood up against enormous forces. They already eulogized us. Our opponents said the Netanyahu-era is finished. But together we changed the script. We turned lemons into lemonade,” he said.
He added he would begin talking to his coalition partners immediately about forming a government and “healing divides.”
Gantz conceded the disappointing show for his party but attempted to remain optimistic.
“The results could be identical in the political sense to what they were a year ago; then we remained strong, united and loyal to our path, and I tell you we will again remain strong, united and loyal to our path because it is the right one,” he said.
Ahmad Tibi from the Arab majority Joint List hailed a “major success” in gaining 15 seats.
It was the “biggest election success in decades,” he said.
He added that Netanyahu’s chances at building a coalition still threatened a “dark future.”
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh thanked voters for coming out, noting especially the unprecedented amount of Jewish votes his party received.
“Brothers and sisters, you have created a historic day,” Odeh said in Arabic. “From the first elections in 1949 until today, we have not received this degree of support and this number of seats.”
“I call on left-wingers not to despair or soul-search, but rather to think about partnership and a principled alternative,” he said later, and explained that he was talking about “real peace and democracy, actual equality between Arabs and Jews and social justice for all disadvantaged persons.”