Bennett: Praying and Fighting for Each Vote

Counting the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset, a day after the general elections, Wednesday. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Israeli elections were not quite over as of Thursday morning, as the counting of some 400,000 votes of IDF soldiers, diplomats abroad, prisoners and bedridden hospital patients continued. The count is expected to conclude Thursday night. As of Thursday morning, Naftali Bennett’s New Right party had passed the electoral threshold by a 10th of a percentage point, but was still said to be several hundred votes short of entering the Knesset.

If four MKs of the New Right do win Knesset seats, that means four seats will be deducted from other parties – and those parties include United Right List and United Torah Judaism, which will lose one each, along with Blue and White, which will shrink to 33 seats from 35 in the current count. That would make the Likud the uncontested largest party, which remains with 35 seats. Party head Naftali Bennett told reporters Thursday morning that he was “praying to Hashem and fighting for each vote.”

With the New Right in the Knesset, Binyamin Netanyahu would have more options in forming a government, and would be able to conduct tougher negotiations with potential coalition partners who have already announced that they would set a high price for their agreement to join a government. If New Right does not enter the Knesset, UTJ could lose a seat anyway – to Meretz, which would bring the Likud and right-wing bloc down to 64, requiring Netanyahu to make more concessions to coalition partners.

Part of the problem is an apparent computer bug that is not accounting for some 60,000 votes on paper ballots. Those ballots were not included in the database of all registered votes, and were not taken into account for the unofficial results that had New Right missing the threshold. A total of 4,291,707 paper ballots were cast and were not disqualified for any reason, while the site of the Central Elections Committee lists a total of 4,231,424 votes, Yediot Acharonot reported.