JERUSALEM: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s prospects for another term looked uncertain on Wednesday after partial results from a national election projected no clear path to victory.
Not even his stewardship of Israel’s world-beating Covid vaccination rollout — a central pillar of his campaign — proved enough for Netanyahu to break through the political deadlock that has seen four elections in two years.
With about 88% of votes counted it appeared that Netanyahu, 71, would have to cobble together a coalition from a combination of rightwing allies, ultra-Orthodox parties, ultra-nationalists, Arabs and defectors to secure another term. Should a hard-right government emerge, it would likely be at loggerheads with the Democratic administration of US President Joe Biden over issues such as Palestinian statehood and US engagement with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran over its nuclear programme.
Some centre-left parties made a better showing than expected after highlighting corruption allegations against Netanyahu — which he denies. But like Netanyahu’s rightwing bloc it fell short of a governing majority in the 120-member parliament. And it has a less clear route to forming a coalition, having to unite parties from different wings of the political spectrum. After polls closed on Tuesday, Netanyahu claimed victory and said he hoped to form a “stable right-wing government”. But as first results trickled in and seemed to shift against him, he did not repeat the claim. One potential kingmaker is Naftali Bennett, 48, a former defence minister who favours annexing parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.