95% of vote counted: Blue and White leads Likud by single seat, 33-32

With 95% of the vote counted, Blue and White leads Likud by one seat. But the two major blocs are even at 56 seats.

By World Israel News Staff 

The vote count from Tuesday’s election is heading toward completion. With 95 percent of the vote counted, Blue and White leads by one seat, 33-32.

Neither side has the 61 votes necessary to form a governing coalition in the 120-seat Knesset. Results show a tie, with the center-left and right-wing blocs each holding 56 seats.

Importantly, the center-left bloc reaches 56 only if it includes the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties led by Ayman Odeh. It has become the third largest faction, winning 13 seats.

However, observers argue that it advocates policies that would undermine Israel’s unique Jewish nature, arguing for instance for the “right of return,” which politicians on both left and right agree would spell the demographic end of the Jewish State.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been hammering this theme since Tuesday’s elections, saying that he would do everything in his power to prevent a government that “leans on the anti-Zionist Arab parties.”

It’s not at all clear that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would himself agree to do so. During the campaign, he rejected the idea after Odeh floated the possibility in August.

In an election night speech Gantz called for unity, but it remains unclear what kind of governmental constellation he envisions. Election observers appear to agree that he won’t lean his government on the Arab parties.

Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu party, which ran a campaign against religious coercion, has eight seats.Throughout the election, he has argued for a broad unity government made up of the two main parties, Blue and White and Likud and also his own party.

He repeated this call following the election. His only condition is that the haredi religious parties be frozen out of the government.

The Haredi party, Shas, won nine seats and another Haredi faction – United Torah Judaism – eight seats. These parties can normally be counted on to join a right-wing government.

The right-wing Yemina faction led by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked fared poorly, winning only 7 seats. It could not withstand Netanyahu’s efforts to draw voters away from it to Likud.

Bringing up the rear are two left-wing lists: Labor-Gesher with six seats and the Democratic Union with five.

The key question is whether Blue and White and the Likud could join forces in forming a national unity government.

Blue and White has said it is prepared to work with the Likud, but only if Netanyahu steps aside, due to indictments pending against him in several corruption cases.

All Likud members of Knesset say, at least publicly, that such a scenario is not in the cards. Netanyahu will remain Likud’s leader.