With ca. 97% of the votes counted, the outcome is not quite what it appeared to be in the exit poll projections. Both major parties, Benny Gantz’ Blue-White Party and Netanyahu’s Likud are at 35 votes even. But, of the smaller parties reaching between 5-10 votes each, the majority are right-wing and will help Netanyahu to form a government with a coalition estimated at 66 votes.
So although both sides initially claimed victory, and in effect Gantz did very well as a newcomer to equal Netanyahu, and this tends to indicate some fatigue with Netanyahu and his indictments, nevertheless, when the chips are down, the rightward shift of the Israeli electorate once again gave Netanyahu a slim majority. Note that although some have called this a far-right coalition, it is really not much different than before, basically the country is split, with a slight tendency towards the right. Now President Reuven Rivlin must decide who to ask to form the Government on the basis of the final vote and the advice of the Party chiefs.
Some interesting results of the election, the Labour Party that was once the major party in Israel is now reduced to the status of a small party with one-digit representation, say 9 votes. So the shift of their former voters to the center is clear. The Arab Parties that had a strong coalition in the last election, were split in this election and so gained fewer seats, only ca. 6-9. The small religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, both gained 6-9 seats and are key to Netanyahu forming his coalition. On the right, the New Right Party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked that was expected to do well, did not do so, and they might not be able to overcome the threshold to gain any seats. But, the other small new right-wing party the Union of the Right-Wing may get 5-9 seats, aiding Netanyahu’s coalition.
It is reported that Netanyahu is already in negotiations to form his coalition, but things are not quite firmed yet, so there will be a short delay while the reality sinks in. Gantz realizes he will be in the opposition, not what a former general likes. And Netanyahu will probably be back in power for a record fifth time. The more things change the more they are the same.