Right-wing bloc could win 65 seats in clear majority, ending election gridlock

Barring any changes when the total count is done, Netanyahu’s Likud is on track to win a decisive victory, with a clear path to forming a right-wing government.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A bloc of right-wing, religious parties led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party appears to have won a majority of 65 seats in the Knesset, marking the end of an election gridlock cycle.

Israel has held five national elections in less than four years. With the exception of the most recent vote, all ended without a decisive victory for a right- or left-wing coalition.

If the anti-Zionist Balad and far-left Meretz parties, which currently stand just below the electoral threshold of 3.25% to enter the Knesset, manage to survive after the count is done, that could lower Netanyahu’s numbers.

As of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, with 85.9% of the votes tallied, the Netanyahu-led Likud party is expected to win 32 seats, followed by the center-left Yesh Atid party, which is chaired by current prime minister Yair Lapid, with 24 seats.

The Religious Zionism party, led by MK Betzalel Smotrich, is emerging as the third-largest faction with 14 seats.

The National Unity party, a joint slate including Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, is expected to win 12 seats, putting it in a fourth-place tie with the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which also earned 11 seats.

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Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism earned eight seats, and the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party won 5.

The Islamist Ra’am party chaired by Mansour Abbas, who served as coalition kingmaker after last year’s election, scored five seats, along with anti-Zionist Arab party Hadash Ta’al.

Meretz fell short of the minimum required votes to enter the Knesset, signaling a dramatic plunge in popularity after the faction won six seats in the previous March 2021 election.

MKs from Meretz, a part of the so-called change bloc, have sparked controversy in the last year due to a number of public comments. MK Yair Golan referred to settlers as “subhuman” and compared them to Nazis. He also publicly berated a high school student who suggested that Israel’s anti-terror policies are too lax, calling him “a threat to society.”

Arab-Israeli MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, whose resignation from the government brought down a coalition led by Naftali Bennett, made multiple comments to the media suggesting that she does not identify with the State of Israel, adding that she does not know the words to Israel’s national anthem.

The left-wing Labor Party also suffered a loss at the polls, barely squeaking by the electoral threshold to enter the Knesset with four seats after earning seven in the previous election.