Winner still undecided in Israeli election

Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has failed to secure a clear majority in this week’s election. 

Netanyahu’s ruling party, Likud, was ahead in exit polls but missed the clear majority needed to decide the election.

Prime Minister since 2009, Netanyahu has securely held his seat against his competitors, despite overwhelming lack of popularity.

Netanyahu campaigned on his massive success with bringing vaccines to Israel and keeping the number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19 at record low numbers. This allowed him to safely re-open the economy just two weeks before the election. 

Experts say that despite his success, COVID-19 fatigue from Israel’s three national lockdowns may have contributed to low voter turnout.

Netanyahu’s victory may require him to make agreements with the far-right extremist alliance, Religious Zionism, which currently holds around 6 to 7 seats. 

His rival, and estranged former protege, Naftali Bennett, has not ruled out creating a bloc to win a majority in the Knesset. If Netanyahu agrees to Bennett’s religious, nationalistic terms, he would gain a 61 seat majority that would secure him victory. 

While both Netanyahu and Bennett are linked by hawkish, right-wing ideologies, Netanyahu has been criticized for being soft on Arab agreements. His desire to secure a victory may push him further left, away from the progress made on Israel- Palestine peace.

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