TEL AVIV – Benjamin Netanyahu won a decisive victory in the country’s fifth election in less than four years, the results showed on Thursday, effectively uniting his right-wing and religious nationalists and ending his political comeback.
Mr Netanyahu rode a wave of brutality a year after violence erupted between Arabs and Jews on the streets of Israeli cities. In daily campaign appearances across the country, behind a mobile campaign truck often called the BB-Bus, Mr. Netanyahu has reinforced his message that his opponents are a threat to the security of Jewish Israelis.
In contrast, centrist Yair Lapid, who took power last winter after the fall of his government, failed to unite the centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, two of which failed to get enough votes to pass. Electoral threshold required to sit in Parliament.
Mr. Lapid handed over to Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday night. “For the sake of the Israeli people and the Israeli government, I wish Netanyahu success,” he said in a statement.
Israel’s national broadcaster Khan reported that Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won 32 seats, while the right-wing Religious and Nationalist Group won 64 in the 120-seat parliament, or Knesset.
Mr. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party won 24 seats, while a group of right-wing, left-wing and Arab parties won 51. The nonaligned coalition of communists and Palestinian nationalists won another five seats.
The popular vote was evenly split with 49% for Mr. Netanyahu and 49% for his opponents.
Yohanan Pelsner, president of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said Mr. Netanyahu’s victory was due to the perfect arrangement of the team that would take him to power.
“I won’t waste a single vote,” Mr. Plenner said. “Unlike the anti-Netanyahu group, which won more votes but was 10 seats lower in the Knesset because of its organization and political architecture.”
The results represent the return to power of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, who has been deeply divided. He is popular with many Israelis who call him the “King of Israel.” But many Israelis feel he has been in power too long and do not believe he should be prime minister when he is indicted on corruption charges.
While Mr. Netanyahu is known by many abroad as a skilled diplomat and orator, in Israel it is his shrewd political skills that have kept him at the top of his country’s leadership more than any of his predecessors. Mr. Netanyahu was elected prime minister five times in 15 years.
His success in the election was fueled by a surge in the popularity of ultra-religious lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gevir, who has vowed to crack down on West Bank Palestinians and Arab Israelis who attack Jews. Mr. Ben-Givir’s National Religious Alliance won 14 seats, making it the third largest party in the Knesset, according to Kan.
“There is fear in the streets and he will deal with it,” said Avishai Katz, an 18-year-old Jerusalemite who voted for Mr. Ben-Gvir. “He’s the only one who cares about terrorism, about sovereignty.”
Mr. Netanyahu was able to capitalize on Mr. Ben-Givir’s popularity by organizing a coalition of radical parties. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Ben-Givir attacked their opponents for allowing the Islamist party to join the previous government. Both men charged that a government with an Arab party would not be able to fight terrorism firmly.
Over several months as acting prime minister, Mr Lapid has built up his international profile but has failed to unite the left. Analysts say that two smaller left-of-center parties running on their own instead of joining forces with larger parties would be a mistake.
On Thursday, the left-wing Merets Party and Balad, an Arab party, each had about 3% of the vote — below the 3.25% threshold needed for parties to enter the Knesset. If they had signed agreements with the major parties, their votes would have helped the anti-Netanyahu group gain enough seats to unseat Mr. Netanyahu, but instead those votes were rejected.
Aviv Bushinsky, a former aide to Mr. Netanyahu, said: “It is true that Netanyahu was wise to pretend his group was, but if Netanyahu wins the election, the left loses the election.”
It will be the first time for Meretz that he will not be seated in the Knesset since his party was founded in 1992. The Labor Party, one of the country’s founding political parties, barely crossed the electoral threshold with 4 seats, no.
In the year In 2019, Balad was the third largest party in the Knesset, winning 15 seats when it joined forces with other Arab parties. In Tuesday’s election, all Arab-led parties combined won just 10 seats.
For many Israelis, the election results were devastating. Mr. Ben-Givir’s coalition has promised to weaken the country’s judiciary and give more power to elected officials, and many on the left see him as a racist. Mr. Ben-Gvir denies being a racist.
Natalie Ginsburg, 83, from Jerusalem said she felt “horrific” at the election results. Ms. Ginsburg has protested against Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and fears that a government that includes Mr. Ben Gvir could crack down on dissidents like her. She is also concerned about the rights of women and LGBT Israelis.
Mrs. Ginsburg, who voted for Meretz, said: “They really come from the dark ages, not just where the Palestinians are concerned, but in every way.”
In the coming days, Israeli President Isaac Herzog is set to choose the leader he believes has the best chance of assembling a governing coalition, with the party that wins the most seats usually receiving more recommendations from other lawmakers to form a leader or government. . That person will try for up to six weeks to form a majority coalition that includes the support of smaller parties.
Tuesday’s election was the fifth time Israelis have gone to the polls since 2019. In order to indicate the problem in the matter, he urged all parties to come out with their support and vote in large numbers. 71.3% of voters headed to the ballot box, the highest since 2015, according to Israel’s Central Election Committee.
– Dov Lieber and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this article.
Write Shayndi Raice at [email protected]
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