Israel Elections | Lapid Congratulates Netanyahu on Victory, Knives Come Out on the Left

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Yair Lapid on Election Day in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon, on Tuesday.
     Yair Lapid on Election Day in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon, on Tuesday.Credit: Hadas Parush
Updates
Ben Samuels

Blinken to Lapid: U.S. deeply concerned over the situation in the West Bank

Uֱ.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday, to "commend Israel for its free and fair elections, and to thank the prime minister for his partnership," the State Department said in statement.

Blinken "reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship. He also emphasized his deep concern over the situation in the West Bank, including heightened tensions, violence, and loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives, and underscored the need for all parties to urgently de-escalate the situation."

Election Overdose

Understanding Bibi's Comeback. LISTEN to Election Overdose

Chen Maanit

Election panel says Likud sought to undermine supervision of voting on election night

Shortly after exit poll results were announced at 10 P.M.on Election Night on Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party issued a statement that cast doubt on the integrity of the vote.

“Likud has contacted the police commissioner and the Central Elections Committee with an urgent demand to send police reinforcements to all of the polling sites in the Arab sector in light of serious incidents of violence, threats and an atmosphere of terror toward representatives of the right-wing camp at the polling stations,” read the statement, which was sent to media outlets.

Read the full story here.

Michael Hauser Tov

Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to resign his post in the coming days

Alternate Prime Minster Naftali Bennet announced on Thursday that he will resign his post in the coming days, following the election results. Bennett will not serve in the next Knesset and will forego his veto power in the current government. He justified his decision in expectation that a right wing government will form soon, and says he reached an agreement with Prime Minister Yair Lapid that the government will not take "any politically sensitive or unnecessary decisions."

Naftali BennettCredit: Emil Salman

Israel election final results: Netanyahu, Jewish far right win power, fiasco for left

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the party's headquarters in Jerusalem, on Tuesday.Credit: Emil Salman

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies won a decisive majority in Israel's election, a final vote count on Thursday shows. Left-wing party Meretz was just a few thousand votes short of making it into the next Knesset, ending a three-decade-long era of political representation.

Likud won 32 seats, while outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid is the second-largest party with 24 seats, followed by the far-right Religious Zionism – headed by Bezalel Smotrich and Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir – which earned 14 seats.

Netanyahu's likely coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism won 11 and seven seats, respectively.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz's National Unity won 12 seats, and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman got six seats.

Arab-majority parties Hadash-Ta'al and United Arab List each have five seats.

Labor, once a ruling party in Israel, is just over the 3.25 percent electoral threshold with four seats.

Arab nationalist party Balad and Ayelet Shaked's Habayit Hayehudi failed to make it into the Knesset.

Labor leader Michaeli blasts Lapid: He wanted to erase us

Labor leader Merav Michaeli gives a statement to the press, on Thursday evening.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Israel's Labor party leader Merav Michaeli sharply criticized outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid for "mismanaging" the center-left bloc campaign while shrugging off responsibility for the demise of the left-wing Meretz party.

"Lapid wanted to erase the Labor party" Michaeli said on Thursday in her first public address since Israel's election exit polls were published on Tuesday night.

Speaking of Labor's "sister-party" Meretz, which failed to pass the electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset, Michaeli said that there was no political justification for a merger. The battle was mismanaged," Michaeli said, "and whoever managed it did it poorly."

Labor, a party that once dominated the Knesset, stands just over the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, with four seats.

Disappointed by exit poll results, Labor canceled a post-election event that was planned to be held in Tel-Aviv on Tuesday for the party's supporters.

Earlier on Thursday, Meretz leader Zehava Galon bemoaned Labor's refusal to merge with her left-wing party, which was ultimately just a few thousand votes short of making it into the Knesset.

Lapid congratulates Netanyahu on victory

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid called Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to congratulate him on his election victory.

"Israel is above politics," Lapid said, adding that he is prepared for an orderly transition of power.

Michael Hauser Tov

Left-wing Meretz leader bemoans 'disaster'

Zehava Galon Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Zehava Galon, leader of left-wing Meretz party which is likely to remain out of the next Knesset, took responsibility for the failure on Thursday.

"This is a very difficult moment for me and my friends in Meretz" Galon tweeted. The elections results "are a disaster for Meretz, a disaster for the country and, yes, a personal disaster for me as well." Galon added that she had pushed for a merger with Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli, and had warned outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid of "playing with fire.

"Unfortunately," said Galon, "our voters went with the 'largest party' campaign and preferred to strengthen Yair Lapid vs. Bibi."

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Number five on the Otzma Yehudit list: 'I oppose Pride parades, I don't want people dancing in their underwear in the streets'

Incoming Knesset member Yitzhak Wasserlauf, number five on the Otzma Yehudit list for the Knesset, was asked in an interview on Jerusalem Radio whether he would act against the Pride parade and replied that he opposes it and added "as long as I am required to do so, I will express my opinion, of course." "I have LGBT friends, Sheffi Paz, who is a lesbian and is my best friend as of today," said Wasserlauf on behalf of Otzma Yehudit. "At the end of the day, we are a democratic country and I am allowed to express my opinion. I think the Pride parade doesn't serve the LGBT community either, and in general I'm against people dancing in their underwear in the streets. If you want to have an in-depth discussion, you don't do it the way it's done on the streets of Tel Aviv."

Referring to the "beasts parade" – which occurred in 2006 and was organized by Itamar Ben Gvir to show his contempt for the Pride parade – Wasserlauf said that Ben Gvir "has evolved, we haven't seen him in recent years participating in such marches."

Noa Shpigel

Yisrael Beitenu losing ground with its traditional voter base: Jews from the former Soviet Union

Since Tuesday night, Yisrael Beiteinu has maintained radio silence. On the night of the elections, Avigdor Liberman told the party's activists that "in the end, what matters is the final number of valid votes. Yet regardless of this number, I want to express my opinion and feelings and yes, I'm very disappointed."

This disappointment was already felt in the disappearance of the party members in cities identified with the Russian public, Liberman's traditional voter base. The change in the expected turnout was felt even before all votes were counted. In previous elections in Ashdod, for example, Yisrael Beytinu stood firmly as the third-largest party after the Likud and Shas. In the current elections, the party only ranked fifth in the city, behind Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yesh Atid. Even in Kiryat Yam, after trailing behind Likud last year, this time the party fell behind both the Likud and Yesh Atid. The same happened in Bat Yam, a city known for its large population of residents from the former Soviet Union.

Even in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, where Yisrael Beiteinu garnered the second-largest number of votes after the Likud in the 2021 elections, the party has now dropped to third place behind the Likud and Religious Zionism

An Israel Beiteinu official told Haaretz, that based on experience, the party still hopes to achieve another seat from the counting of double envelopes, mainly from votes by soldiers and from the residents of cities with large populations of Jews from the former USSR.

94.6% of votes counted as Likud maintains lead

With 94.6 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu's bloc is holding onto its lead of 65 seats, while the anti-Netanyahu bloc remains with 50 seats. As the counting continues, Meretz's chances of clearing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold are slimming.

Likud currently has 32 seats, Yesh Atid has 24, Religious Zionism has 14, the National Unity camp has 12, Shas has 11 and United Torah Judaism has eight seats. Yisrael Beiteinu, United Arab List, and Hadash-Ta'al win five seats apiece. Labor is just over the electoral threshold with four seats, while Meretz and Balad are still below the threshold, as is Habayit Hayehudi.

Michael Hauser Tov

After maintaining silence amid disappointing election showing, Labor leader Merav Michaeli to speak Thursday evening

The Labor Party is convening Thursday evening in Tel Aviv at 6:00 P.M., where party leader Merav Michaeli is expected to deliver her first announcement since vote counting began. The party, which practically ruled over Israeli politics for decades, is witnessing a record low of only four seats in the next Knesset.

Criticism against the party has mounted, particularly against leader Merav Michaeli, for refusing to run a joint slate with left-wing Meretz, which party activists and analysts have attributed as a major factor behind the former giant's poor showing.

Credit: Eitan Ron

Michael Hauser Tov

Netanyahu in coalition talks with anti-LGBTQ party, could walk back conversion therapy ban

Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben-Gvir and Noam's Avi Maoz, at the Knesset, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Officials in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party’s plan to negotiate a coalition agreement with the anti-LGBTQ Noam faction of Religious Zionism with the aim of bringing Noam into the new government coalition – potentially walking back recent civil rights gains such as a ban on conversion therapy.

After the polls closed and the exit poll results were released on Tuesday, Netanyahu held a conference call with heads of the parties that would be likely to be part of his future coalition government. Avi Maoz, the leader of the small religiously conservative and anti-liberal Noam party, was included in the call. Noam and Itamar Ben-Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party ran on a joint ticket with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party in Tuesday’s Knesset election.

Read the full story here.

Josh Breiner

Israel's police chief blamed Ben-Gvir for igniting Gaza war. Now he may find himself reporting to him

Last year, a few days after the launching of Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai placed the blame for the outbreak of violent clashes on the shoulders of one man. “The person responsible for this intifada is Itamar Ben-Gvir,” Shabtai told the ministers at a closed meeting, referring to the decision by the Otzma Yehudit chairman to place his parliamentary office in the disputed Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Ben-Gvir, for his part, exploited the clashes to position himself as the flag bearer of security for Jewish residents in mixed cities, in the Negev and in the Galilee. Concurrently, he kept presenting himself as a worthy alternative to current Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. Thus, he became the prime political beneficiary of the violent incidents, which the commissioner said were ignited by his activities.

Read the full report

Anshel Pfeffer

Bibi’s choice: he may prefer a radical coalition for now, until he drops Ben-Gvir

So what coalition will the triumphant Benjamin Netanyahu now form? The obvious answer is the one he has: Likud and the three parties – Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism – that have been with him in the opposition and supported him throughout the election campaign. They’re the parties that comprise his new majority, and besides, no other party in the Knesset is prepared to join his government.

But something nearly always seems to go wrong or not as planned when Netanyahu forms a coalition. As far back as 1996, when he first became prime minister, the cabinet’s swearing-in was nearly derailed when the party elders (back then all of them were older than Netanyahu) rebelled against his plan to keep Ariel Sharon out of his government. This forced Netanyahu to cobble together the National Infrastructure Ministry for the retired general.

Read the full article here.

Haaretz.

The battle for Israel

The recent Knesset election brought the Benjamin Netanyahu-Itamar Ben-Gvir-Bezalel Smotrich axis to power. Despite the understandable disappointment, the center-left camp cannot stand idly by or sink into despair. Instead, in the coming days it should already formulate a plan of action to rein in this dangerous alliance, which is expected to cause irreversible damage to Israeli democracy.

The success of the right-wing parties should in fact be an important lesson to the left: The attempt to masquerade, to flee from a response to the fearmongering, hate-mongering and divisiveness disseminated far and wide by the right, is doomed to failure. It will also lead, in the foreseeable future, to the disappearance of the parties of the left as we know them.

Read the full editorial here.

Yossi Verter

Lapid’s hara-kiri paved the way for Netanyahu’s return

“This is the idiocy of the bloc of change. The difference is only 3,700 votes,” Professor Camil Fuchs, the Channel 13 pollster, told Haaretz yesterday. Idiocy? Criminal negligence is more like it. An eclipse of historic magnitude. “Like a whale that has lost its sense of direction, you keep on charging the beach again and again, trying to commit suicide,” Haim Ramon once exclaimed in exasperation. This time, they succeeded. It wasn’t easy, but when there’s a will there’s a way.

The multitude of party slates, the paucity of vote surplus agreements, the refusal to join ranks, the internecine quarrels, the arrogance, the unwarranted euphoria, the megalomania, the lack of recognition for the leader of the bloc – all of these were there from the very start. The conduct of the coalition of change in this campaign was like the Peres government’s handling of the 1996 election campaign (when he faced the political neophyte Netanyahu). A chronicle of a hara-kiri foretold.

Read the rest of the analysis here.

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With 92.6 percent of the votes counted, Meretz falls farther below electoral threshold

With 92.6% of the votes counted, the Netanyahu-supporting bloc maintains its lead with 65 seats, while the anti-Netanyahu bloc remains at 50 seats. Meretz's chances of clearing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold are slimming as it falls to just 3.15 percent of the votes.

Likud currently has 32 seats, Yesh Atid has 24, Religious Zionism has 14, the National Unity camp has 12, Shas has 11 and United Torah Judaism has eight seats. Yisrael Beiteinu, United Arab List, and Hadash-Ta'al win five seats apiece. Labor is just over the electoral threshold with four seats, while Meretz and Balad are still below the threshold, as is Habayit Hayehudi.

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