Benjamin Netanyahu Defeats Gantz, but is Still Short a Majority

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to win 59 seats for his bloc of right-wing and religious parties in Monday’s election, down by one from the 60 predicted by the initial exit polls. The new prediction leaves him two short of a majority in the Knesset.

The first polls indicated that Netanyahu’s Likud won 36-37 seats. Its allies in Shas, UTJ and Yamina won 9, 7-8 and 6-7 respectively. The polls showed Blue and White with 33 seats, its ally Labor-Gesher-Meretz with 6-7, the Joint List 14-15 and Yisrael Beytenu 6-8.

When Channel 13 updated its numbers at around 1 a.m. Israel time, however, Gantz gained one seat to 34 and the blocs shifted slightly, leaving the right-wing with only 59 seats.

Channel 12 also updated its numbers, giving Likud 37 seats, Blue and White 32, Arab Joint List 15, Shas 9, Yisrael Beytenu 7, UTJ 7, Labor-Gesher-Meretz 7 and Yamina 6.

However, by 4 a.m., Kan News gave Likud 36 seats and Blue and White 33, with the right bloc also holding a total of 59.

The numbers are expected to continue to change. The votes of soldiers, who tend to lean to the right, have not yet been counted and the Joint List tends to lose a seat when the soldiers’ votes are added. But, if the Right does not obtain its 61st seat, it could end up being because the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party refused Netanyahu’s repeated requests to quit the race.

Netanyahu immediately tweeted “thank you.”

The outright victory in the third election in under a year is expected to enable Netanyahu to quickly form a right-wing coalition after having headed a caretaker government since December 2018.

Netanyahu spoke to the heads of the parties in his camp immediately after the exit polls were announced, and agreed to form a strong nationalist government as soon as possible.

Blue and White MKs expressed disappointment with the results but said they did not expect the party to break up. They dismissed speculation that party leader Benny Gantz would quit politics.

Gantz seemed to support this, thanking his supporters and telling them: “I will continue to struggle for our ideology for you.”Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also responded: “We have to wait for the final results. Yisrael Beytenu won’t compromise a millimeter from what it promised its voters.”

THE HIGH turnout in the country’s unprecedented third election in under a year showed no signs of voter apathy, as citizens cast ballots in an attempt to end the political stalemate.

Voter turnout was 71%, continuing its from 69.83% in September and 68.46% in April. There were more than 200,000 voters casting ballots on Monday who had not voted in September.

The turnout was even higher among the 5,630 people quarantined due to exposure to the coronavirus, among whom 4,076 (72.4%) voted in special polling stations despite long lines.

Earlier on Monday, both Netanyahu and Gantz expressed concern about what they claimed was lower turnout in areas where their parties had done well in recent elections.

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