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Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems close to a return to power on Wednesday, the day after the legislative elections that placed his party, the Likud, in the lead. However, the final results may create surprises.
Ally to the far right, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting closer to victory in Israel, the day after the legislative elections on Tuesday 1er november.
“Netanyahu seeks decisive victory, Lapid hopes for equality, Ben Gvir celebrates victory”, headlines the Yediot Aharonot, the best-selling newspaper of the Israeli press, on Wednesday.
>> To read: Legislative in Israel: “The Jewish State facing the breakthrough of the far right”
65 seats expected
As of 10 a.m. (0800 GMT), about 84 percent of the ballots had been counted, the election commission said. According to these partial results, the Likud (right) of Benjamin Netanyahu obtains 31 seats, in front of the centrist formation Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) of outgoing Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid which collects 24 seats, out of the 120 in Parliament .
Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right allies Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir came third with 14 seats – double the seats they had so far.
Next comes the center-right party of ex-army chief Benny Gantz, a member of the outgoing coalition, which won 12 seats.
Together with its allies, Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc would have 65 seats, four more than the majority.
“Nothing is played”
But these results could change depending on the number of seats won by the small parties: according to the partial results, two lists – an Arab party and the left-wing formation Meretz – rub shoulders with the eligibility threshold and their score could change the situation. .
This election took place against a backdrop of renewed violence in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel. On Wednesday morning, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian who seriously injured a soldier in a vehicular attack at a checkpoint.
Benjamin Netanyahu, 73, lost power in June 2021 to a motley coalition set up by Yair Lapid. Head of government with unequaled longevity in the history of Israel, he is prosecuted for corruption in several cases.
“I have experience, I have done some elections, we have to wait for the final results, but our path, that of Likud, has proven to be the right one, we are close to a big victory,” launched in the night Benjamin Netanyahu to his supporters gathered in Jerusalem.
His rival Yair Lapid also said that “as long as the last ballot is not counted, nothing is decided”.
“Right-wing, religious and authoritarian revolution”
But already, a former Likud party, the current Minister of Justice Gideon Saar, has warned of the risk of seeing Israel heading towards a “coalition of extremists” led by Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies.
“People want to walk the streets in safety, that our soldiers and police are not bound hand and foot,” Itamar Ben Gvir said, reiterating his call for the use of force, especially against Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in Occupied West Bank.
“Israel is about to begin a right-wing, religious and authoritarian revolution, the aim of which is to destroy the democratic infrastructure on which the country was built,” the major left-wing daily Haaretz said on Wednesday. “This could be a dark day in Israel’s history.”
For these fifth legislative elections in three and a half years, the political class feared a “fatigue” of the 6.8 million registered voters. The opposite happened, with a turnout of 71.3% – the highest since 2015, according to the electoral commission.
In the Israeli proportional system, an electoral list must obtain at least 3.25% of the votes to enter Parliament with a minimum of four seats, a particularly critical situation for the parties of the large Israeli Arab minority, descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their lands when Israel was created in 1948.
In 2020, Arab parties hostile to Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc won a record 15 seats after campaigning under one banner.
They presented themselves this time in dispersed order, under three lists – Raam (moderate Islamist), Hadash-Taal (secular) and Balad (nationalist) – and if some do not reach the eligibility threshold, it would increase the chances of Benjamin Netanyahu to return to business.
“The results show that Netanyahu has the best chance of forming a government with fascists on his side,” said Hadash-Taal MK Aida Touma-Suleiman. “And that is of great concern to us…because it speaks to where this country is heading and what awaits the Palestinians living there.”