Gantz Gap Holds at 33-31

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at a party meeting on Thursday. (Avshalom Shoshoni/Flash90)

With nearly all the vote counted, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party maintained a lead of 33 to 31 mandates over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud as of Thursday evening.

The Central Election Committee reported that 98.7 percent of the vote has been counted officially and the results stand at: Blue and White, 33; Likud 31; the Joint List 13; Shas 9; United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu 8 each; Yemina 7; Labor-Gesher 6; and the Democratic Camp had five.

The updated results account for about 180,000 so-called double envelope votes cast by diplomats, security forces, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners.

Those votes make up five percent of the overall number nationwide. Their tallying began at 1 a.m. Thursday and was finished around 10 a.m., the Central Election Committee said, but more time was needed for processing the numbers through the computerized system.

President Reuven Rivlin said on Thursday that he will begin consultations with the newly-elected Knesset factions on Sunday to hear their recommendations for the next prime minister.

Meanwhile, as neither the right nor center-left has enough mandates for a majority, media reports focused on initial discussion about forming a unity government headed by Blue and White and Likud, which have not progressed. Netanyahu says he is willing, but Gantz has again rejected the proposal to join with the prime minister in the next government.