Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz were deadlocked with nearly all votes from the country’s general election counted on Wednesday, Israeli media reported.
Various Israeli media reported that Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White had 32 seats each of parliament’s 120 with more than 90 percent of the vote counted.
The reports were citing sources with the elections committee, as that level of results had not been officially posted yet.
The results gave no obvious path for either to form a coalition, raising the possibility of negotiations towards a unity government.
Ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman could prove to be kingmaker, with the reported results showing his Yisrael Beitenu’s list with nine seats.
The mainly Arab Joint List alliance was set to become the third-largest force in parliament with 12 seats, the reports said.
That could put the Arab parties in position to block Netanyahu from continuing as prime minister if they decided to break with precedent and endorse Gantz for the job.
Netanyahu’s Political Future Threatened
Israeli Ynet said the results set the stage for a period of coalition negotiations that could threaten Netanyahu’s political future and even clear the way for him to be tried on corruption charges.
“While the results do not guarantee that Gantz will be the next prime minister, they signaled that Netanyahu, who has led the country for over 10 years, could have trouble holding on to the job,” according to Ynet.
Addressing his supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu refused to concede defeat and vowed to work to form a new government that excludes Arab parties.
“In the coming days we will convene negotiations to assemble a strong Zionist government and to prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government,” he said.
Liberman and Gantz
Addressing his supporters late Tuesday, a jubilant Liberman said he saw only “one option”: a broad, secular coalition with both Blue and White and Likud.
“We’ve always said that a unity government is only possible in emergency situations” Liberman said and added “I tell every citizen today watching us on television: the situation, both security-wise and economically, are emergency situations.”
“The country, therefore, requires a broad government,” Liberman added.
Early Wednesday, Gantz told a cheering rally of supporters that while it was too soon to declare victory, he had begun speaking to potential partners and hoped to form a unity government.
“Starting tonight we will work to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people,” he said.
Attention will now focus on President, Reuven Rivlin, who is to choose the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a stable coalition. Rivlin is to consult with all parties in the coming days before making his decision, according to Israeli media.
Source: Agencies and Israeli media