The votes are still being counted in Israel, but it appears
that Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has defied
the odds, pundits and polls to stage a historic last-minute
Exit polls which are sometimes inaccurate, show Netanyahu’s
party, Likud, with a slight lead over the leftist Zionist coalition
led by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. Actual vote counting,
with 67% tallied, show Likud leading its major party opponent
by about 4.8%. Mr. Herzog’s party was, based on final
pre-election polls, expected to gain four more seats than Likud.
No political party has ever won a majority of the 120 seats in
the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. In order to control the
government and name the prime minster, a party leader must
form a coalition from the numerous small parties represented
in the Knesset.
Netanyahu, with a dramatic last-minute promise not to allow a
Palestinian state while he was prime minister, apparently was
able to draw votes from other conservative and nationalist
parties. Mr. Herzog, at the last-minute, said the leader of the
party with which his party formed a pre-election coalition
would not serve as prime minister in rotation if they won.
Some analysts said this hurt, rather than helped, Mr. Herzog’s
prospects to form the next Israeli government.
Wednesday morning the final results will be in, and both Mr.
Netanyahu and Mr. Herzog will attempt to assemble a majority
of 61 or more members of parliament. The actual naming of
the prime minister is by the elected president of Israel after
receeiving the official result on Thursday. The person he chooses
then has 30 days to form a government. If he or she cannot, the leader
of the party which came in second then has the opportunity to
form a government. If no one can do so, the Israeli president would
then call a new election.
UPDATE ON MARCH 18, 2015:
With the final results tallied, Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu
have won an upset victory., having received almost 5% more votes
than their nearest rival. Likud is expected to have 30 seats in the
new Knesset, several more than pre-election polls predicted.
Isaac Herzog's coalition on the left is expected to win 24. Mr. Herzog
has formally conceded the election. One report contends that Mr.
Netanyahu now has about 67 votes from conservative and
nationalists parties for his return to power (a majority, or 61 votes
in the Knesset, are necesary). The president of Israel is
expected to ask Mr Netanyahu to form the next government.
Although most commentators, both in Israel and the U.S., have
suggested that Mr. Netanyahu's last-minute declaration that he would
not allow an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank was an
act of political desperation, it now appears that this move was planned
and calculated beforehand as the climax of his campaign. In any event,
it worked. Observers have noted that Mr. Netanyahu's government
could change its mind on this issue if the Palestinian Authority and
anti-Israel forces in the region significantly changed their policies.
The pre-election polls (and even the exit polls), as noted, were
significantly wrong in this election. It could be because most of the
polling was done by the internet, and not by telephone. Some local
observers argue that internet polling in Israel does not work well there.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.