Any lingering hopes in Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud for a favorable shift in the configuration of parties faded on Thursday, after almost all votes were counted and a governing majority was still out of reach.
The Central Elections Committee said all absentee votes had been counted and 99.5 percent of all ballots tallied. The CEC is expected to present the final results to President Reuven Rivlin next Wednesday.
Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious bloc had 52 seats while opposition parties had 58 between them, leaving both sides short of the 61-MK majority needed to form a government. The right-wing Yamina party (with 7) and Islamist Ra’am (with 4), have not committed to either side.
Netanyahu has reportedly designated a team to search for a miscounting of votes for the Joint List, which if successful would win a seat for Likud at the Arab party’s expense. Currently, the Joint List has a buffer of some 2,650 votes, below which it loses its 6th seat, the Times of Israel reported.
Meanwhile, New Hope party leader Gideon Saar, who left Likud to run on his own against Netanyahu, made clear that his face is turned toward the center-left bloc.
“It is clear that Netanyahu doesn’t have a majority for a coalition headed by him,” he said in a statement. “Now we must work to fulfill the potential for forming a government of change. As I announced on election night, ego won’t be a factor.”
“Change” has become the opposition’s watchword of the moment.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Labor chief Merav Michaeli met Thursday evening to discuss “potential cooperation to build a change coalition and replace Netanyahu,” according to a joint statement. “Further conversations will be held,” they said.
Likud responded, “The ‘change bloc’ is a whitewashed name for an anti-democratic bloc. The only real change they want is to bring laws that exist only in Iran to limit candidates and to annul the democratic votes of over a million Israeli citizens.”
This appeared to be a reference to post-election calls for legislation to prevent anyone on criminal trial, such as Netanyahu, from forming a new government.