Near-complete official results Friday confirmed a deadlock in Israel’s general election this week, putting Benny Gantz’s party as the largest but without an obvious path to form a majority coalition.
The results from Israel’s election committee showed Gantz’s centrist Blue and White with 33 seats and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud with 31.
Final results will be published on Wednesday, the committee said.
Israeli newspapers and commentators depicted the 69-year-old Netanyahu in a weakened position, with headlines such as: “Himself Alone”, “Political Death Spasms,” “Unity Spin” and “Gantz Tells Netanyahu: Unity Under My Leadership.”
President Reuven Rivlin will on Sunday start consultations with party leaders about their preference for prime minister, and will then choose the one he thinks has the best chance of putting together a coalition.
His office said the consultations “normally last around two days,” and that he would then begin the process of inviting candidates to form a government.
Netanyahu has dominated the political scene for more than a decade with tough security-first policies, an instinct for how
to dominate news cycles at the expense of rivals, and frequent trips to Washington, Moscow and other world capitals.
There were only narrow differences in the two main parties’ campaigns on many important issues, and an end to the Netanyahu
era would be unlikely to bring significant changes in policy on relations with the US, the regional struggle against Iran or the Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu, a man known to his adoring Likud supporters as “the magician”, has survived difficult situations before.
Many political analysts are waiting to see what manoeuvres he will try to prolong his political survival, not least to claim a public mandate in the face of possible corruption charges that prosecutors may bring within months. He denies any wrongdoing, accusing his critics of mounting a witch-hunt.