Israel Risks New Paralysis With Netanyahu and Rivals Deadlocked
(Bloomberg) -- Israeli voters once again left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main opposition without enough support to ensure a parliamentary majority, forcing rival lawmakers to make tough choices or risk subjecting the country to further political paralysis and yet another election.
In the latest national vote, Netanyahu’s Likud faction and his allies garnered 52 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, trailing an anti-Netanyahu bloc of parties with 57, Israel’s Central Elections Committee said on Thursday.
The premier is still two seats shy of a majority even if the undeclared nationalist party Yamina, led by former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, threw its weight behind Netanyahu.
The deadlock means the only way a government gets formed in the coming weeks is through intense negotiation between parties that scoffed at such talks in the past. If Netanyahu can’t pluck individual right-wing politicians from the rival camp, he’ll need the support of the Islamist United Arab List party, which won four seats, to get him over the top.
Despite his long antagonistic history with Arab parties, Netanyahu is open to cooperating with United Arab List, according to a report in Israeli media. The possibility was subsequently rejected out of hand by one of his likely coalition partners, highlighting the tightrope Netanyahu must tread to win this election.
Those opposing the prime minister are parties spanning the political spectrum, meaning any potential coalition will be fraught by differing views on issues such as relations with the Palestinians, West Bank settlements and how to manage the economy.
What has unified these parties -- which includes former Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, left-wing factions Labor and Meretz, and the right-wing New Hope headed by former Likud member Gideon Sa’ar -- is the desire to rid the legally-embattled Netanyahu from Israeli politics.
Earlier this week, Israel held its fourth election in two years, reflecting a society divided over the leadership of Netanyahu, who is facing trial for alleged corruption. The prime minister has maintained that the charges against him are part of witch hunt by opponents of his right-wing agenda.
President Reuven Rivlin has until April 7 to decide who will receive the first chance to form a government. That candidate will get 4 weeks, and if no coalition arises, Rivlin can extend the period another two weeks, pass the mandate to another Knesset member, or dissolve parliament and call new elections.
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