Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud has emerged as the largest party with the majority of the vote counted in Israel's unprecedented fourth election in two years. However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition. The vote count is expected to continue through Friday.
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The anti-Netanyahu bloc, a motley crew of left, right and centrist factions, was also just shy of a majority. The Islamist United Arab List party, headed by Mansour Abbas, and Naftali Bennett's Yamina have not yet declared their support for either bloc.
- EXPLAINED: Most of the votes are counted, so why don't we have a winner?
- Israel election: In ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood, young voters switched allegiances
7:10 A.M. With nearly 91.6 percent of vote counted, Meretz up one seat at Islamist party's expense
The left-wing Meretz party has captured six out of 120 Knesset seats while the United Arab List went lost one seat, with 91.6 percent of the vote tallied.
The right-wing bloc, together with Naftali Bennett's Yamina party, remains with 59 seats, with no clear path to a majority. So far, 4,050,107 votes have been counted.
According to the Elections Committee, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud gains 30 Knesset seat, followed by Yesh Atid with 17.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party has secured nine seats, while United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu have seven seats each.
Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan, Religious Zionism, New Hope, Meretz and the Joint List have captured six seats apiece, while the United Arab List currently has four Knesset seats. (Haaretz)
9:30 P.M. Likud MK: We can get along with United Arab List
Cooperation with Mansour Abbas' United Arab List 'is not damaging,' Likud MK David Bitan said in an interview with Kan public radio.
"We could get along with the United Arab List," Bitan said, if the pro-Netanyahu bloc would reach 60 seats.
In the interview, Bitan said that Abbas was the election wildcard since by passing the electoral threshold "he did something that was hard to imagine would happen. He left the Joint List and went on his own."
Bitan also mentioned that the United Arab List's second candidate, former Mayor of Sakhnin Mazen Ghanayem, "can serve in any position he wants in the State of Israel."
"We need to understand the alternatives – fifth elections, where we restart everything. Sometimes we need to know to compromise," Bitan added. (Haaretz)
8:04 P.M. How did voting trends vary between each city?
Tel Aviv residents mostly cast their vote for Yesh Atid, as well as residents of Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim and Ramat Gan.
In Jerusalem, residents favored United Torah Judaism. In Haifa, most Israelis voted for Likud, as well as in Rishon Letzion, Netanya, Holon, Petah Tikva and Be'er Sheva.
An analysis of the partial election results reveal the prospective makeup of the Knesset if each city represented the whole country. These findings present an understanding of the ideological and political differences between each geographic area.
According to the results presented by the Central Election Committee, cities with a higher socio-economic status generally voted for Yesh Atid, and in lower socio-economic towns, locals voted for ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties, depending on the town's demographic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite his efforts to attract Arab voters, mostly failed to do so. Settlers voted predominantly for Religious Zionism headed by Bezalel Smotrich. (Ofer Aderet)
6:38 P.M. The right wing stands on two pillars, Bibism and Kahanism | Analysis
The clearest thing that can be extrapolated from the exit polls and partial results of the ongoing vote count is the painful collapse of Gideon Sa’ar. He launched his New Hope party with splendid poll numbers, and improved on it with the exceptional acquisition of Zeev Elkin – who is in competition with Avi Nissenkorn over the most tragic political gamble of the year.
This collapse, which appeared more likely as Election Day neared, is further evidence that Likud has emptied itself out of anything that is not Benjamin Netanyahu. The Likud ballot slip should have been replaced a long time ago, because the voters for this party are no longer placing a ballot for Likud. They are voting – in their own words – Bibi.
Sa’ar’s collapse, like the rather lukewarm result for Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett and the impressive achievement of the far-right party – in which Bezalel Smotrich is the farthest to the left and most liberal – demonstrate the two pillars on which the Israeli right stands: Bibism and Kahanism. The repeated attempts to create another right-wing alternative have failed time after time because they include an internal contradiction. (Ravit Hecht) Read the full analysis here.
4:00 P.M. Counting of sealed ballots expected to be completed Thursday
The counting of so-called double enveloped ballots – those by people unable to go to their designated polling place, like soldiers, prisoners, and patients in hospitals – is expected to begin on Wednesday night and be completed on Thursday. Unofficial results including all votes are expected to be released on Friday.
Counting the double enveloped ballots takes longer because of the additional steps taken to ensure that no fraud has occurred. The votes must be checked against the voter roll to make sure that no one has voted twice – once at their polling station, and once via a “double envelope,” so called because the envelope containing the ballot is sealed twice. (Jonathan Lis)
2:31 P.M. Results show that three different parties got largest share of vote in Israel's largest three cities
With nearly 90 percent of the vote counted, results showed on Wednesday Israel's three largest cities had all voted for different parties. In Jerusalem, United Torah Judaism was the largest party. In Tel Aviv, it was Yesh Atid. Haifa, meanwhile, went with Likud.
Yesh Atid was also the largest party in the Tel Aviv suburbs of Ramat Hasharon, Ramat Gan, and Givatayim, while Likud was the largest in the cities of Rishon Letzion, Petah Tikva, and Be'er Sheva, as well as in Ashkelon and Ashdod, cities that are frequent targets for rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. (Ofer Aderet)
2:23 P.M. Election committee director general: We hope to finish counting all votes by Thursday evening
Orly Ades, the director general of the Central Elections Committee, told Channel 12 on Wednesday that she hoped the counting of so-called double envelope votes – such as those cast by soldiers or people in coronavirus quarantine – would be completed by Thursday evening, and that the process of checking votes to disqualify fraudulent votes would be done by Friday morning. (Haaretz)
12:12 P.M. 'Not in anyone's pocket': Islamist party leader not ruling out joining Netanyahu
United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas said Wednesday that he is not "obligated to any bloc or any candidate," after the Islamist party surpassed the electoral threshold, with almost 90 percent of the vote counted in Israel's unprecedented fourth election in under two years.
The party currently has five out of 120 Knesset seats, after exit polls released on Tuesday said that the party failed to enter Knesset. (Jack Khoury)
11:00 A.M. Likud MK: Not ideal, but party may form a coalition with Abbas
Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi said Wednesday that the party would possibly form a coalition with the support of United Arab List.
In an interview with Channel 12 News, Hanegbi said that it is not Likud's preference to do so, but it would be better than a fifth round of elections. "We've presented our preference," he said, "Our preference is a government made up of at least 61 Knesset members who support the central ideas of the nationalist camp. I hope this happens."
If this is not the case, he added, this clears the way for "possibilities that are not desired at the moment, but are better than a fifth election, one of which is Mansour Abbas realizing what he said for this entire campaign, that he would support any coalition that formulates a plan to deal with the issues in his sector."
Hanegbi added that Likud will do so regardless. "Whether or not it's accepted in the Arab community, we will work as we have worked to strengthen coexistence with the Arab public." (Jonathan Lis)
8:56 A.M. With nearly 90 percent of vote counted, Islamist party enters Knesset and Netanyahu bloc weakens
With 87.5 percent of the vote counted, the Islamist United Arab List party passes the electoral threshold – which seems to diminish Netanyahu's bloc.
The bloc has 59 seats, two short of a majority, if Yamina's Naftali Bennett joins it and if the United Arab List does not.
In an interview earlier this morning, Abbas said that he is not beholden to either bloc, and will not rule out joining any coalition, but will rule out any party that rules out the list.
According to the Central Elections Committee, Likud currently has 30 Knesset seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 17. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party has garnered nine seats, while United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu captured seven seats each.
Kahol Lavan, Religious Zionism, New Hope and the Joint List have thus far received six seats apiece, while Meretz won five seats and the United Arab List four seats, the minimum needed to enter the Knesset. (Haaretz)
8:45 A.M. Meretz's Zandberg: far-right's entry into Knesset a 'red line'
MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz told Kan Bet radio that the election results present a "red line" in Israeli politics. "Those who are following in Kahane's footsteps entered Knesset," she said, referring to the Religious Zionism party.
She added that "The lives of every Arab, every woman, every gay man and lesbian in Israel will be more difficult if Netanyahu succeeds in forming a coalition."
But, she added, "If Netanyahu can agree to [bring Arabs into the coalition] for a purpose as cynical as immunity from trial, there's no reason why we can't do so for the sake of equality." (Haaretz)
8:03 A.M. Hundreds of thousands of special ballots still need to be counted
Central Elections Committee Director General Orly Ades said that there are about 450,000 special ballots that have yet to be counted –about 120,000 more than in the previous election.
"What we're seeing here is the results of the regular ballot boxes throughout the country, all of the votes are counted" Ades told the Kan public broadcaster. She added that local committees have recorded the results and sent them to be checked by the central committee.
But there are still about 450,000 votes in double-sealed envelopes – those cast by voters who are disabled, ill with or quarantined for the coronavirus, soldiers, prisoners, diplomats, and others. "This evening, the first shift will hold the first count" of these votes, Ades said. (Haaretz)
7:15 A.M. With over 70 percent counted, Netanyahu maintains tight lead with Bennett
With over 70 percent of the vote counted, Netanyahu's bloc maintains a narrow lead with 61 seats including Naftali Bennett's Yamina. The anti-Netanyahu bloc has 59 seats. About 3 million votes have been counted.
According to the Central Elections Committee statistics, the partial count leaves Likud with 31 seats, while Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid gets 18 seats. Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism receive nine and eight respectively, Labor and Kahol Lavan get eight and Yamina and Yisrael Beiteinu reach seven apiece. Religious Zionism, the Joint List, New Hope and Meretz all receive six seats. The United Arab List has not crossed the electoral threshold. (Haaretz)
3:15 A.M. With 20 percent of votes counted, United Arab List crosses the threshold
Mansour Abbas' party, which separated from the rest of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, could make it into the Knesset, according to the first fifth of actual votes counted.
None of the exit polls currently predict the United Arab List passing the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the total vote. (Haaretz)
2:35 A.M. Netanyahu extends hand to all who "uphold right-wing values"
Speaking to supporters in Jerusalem, the prime minister hailed the importance of right-wing values and of a right-wing government.
Netanyahu hailed the fact that the Likud was the largest party by a considerable margin as a "great achievement."
He listed a number of policy points, including countering Iranian agression, the vaccine drive and fighting the ICC's decision to investigate Israel for possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, and invited "all members of the Knesset who believe in these values" to join him.
"I will not rule anyone out. And I ask that all those who believe in these values act the same," he added. (Haaretz)
1:00 A.M. Updated exit polls show Netanyahu losing majority
Updated exit polls from Channel 12, Channel 13 and Kan all show Netanyahu unable to form a majority coalition, even if Naftali Bennett's Yamina joins the government. This is a reversal from the first exit polls, which showed Netanyahu able to eke out a narrow majority with Yamina's support.
Exit polls from Channel 13 and Kan show the anti-Netanyahu bloc with 60 seats, Netanyahu's bloc with 53 seats and Yamina with 7. These polls predict that even if Yamina joins with Netanyahu, neither bloc would have a majority of the Knesset's 120 seats.
Channel 12 shows the anti-Netanyahu bloc with a narrow majority, winning 61 seats. Netanyahu's bloc has 52 seats according to this poll and Yamina wins 7. (Haaretz)
12:50 A.M. Lapid: I have begun talks for the anti-Netanyahu bloc
Yair Lapid, the leader of the second-largest party Yesh Atid, said, "As of right now, Netanyahu does not have 61 seats in the Knesset, and the bloc for change has 61." Lapid spoke shortly after one of the three exit polls updated their results to reflect a narrow majority for his bloc. "We'll wait for the full results, of course, but as of now the State of Israel will not establish a government based on the votes of Kahanists and racists," he said.
"I have already begun talks with the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu bloc," he added. "I will do anything to establish a sane government in the State of Israel." (Haaretz)
12:41 A.M. Religious Zionism leader thanks Haredi voters, celebrates victory
Bezalel Smotrich hailed unprecendented numbers with a song and dance, after exit polls give his Religious Zionism seven seats in the Knesset.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, the party’s number three, a Jewish supremacist who is the ideological heir of Meir Kahane, is likely to be in a position for a ministerial spot in a potential government coalition, should that effort be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Hagar Shezaf)
12 A.M. Sa'ar reiterates he won't join Netanyahu-led coalition
New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar, who hoped to replace Netanyahu as prime minister but had a poor showing in exit polls, said: “We were hoping for a better result, but we’ll respect the voters’ decision.” He reiterated his vow not to join a Netanyahu-led government, and said would act to form “a government for change.” (Haaretz)
11:42 Voter turnout lowest since 2013 election
According to the final tally, 67.2 percent of eligible Israeli voters cast their ballots on Election Day. This is a decline from the previous election, and the lowest figure since the 2013 election. (Haaretz)
11:35 P.M. Netanyahu says will form 'a strong right-wing government'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter he will form “a strong and stable right-wing government,” arguing “a clear majority of Israeli citizens” have shown their support for such a government. (Bar Peleg)
10:56 P.M. Reform rabbi vows to make Israel a 'home for all Jewish communities'
Gilad Kariv, a Labor Party candidate who is set to make history as the first reform rabbi to make it into the next Knesset, said exit polls “prove liberal Judaism will proudly raise its voice in the Knesset and ensure Israel would be the home of all communities that make up the Jewish people and the country’s citizenry.”
Kariv said making it into parliament “is the best answer to a never-ending incitement campaign by ultra-Orthodox politicians and the increasingly radical rabbinical establishment.” (Haaretz)
10:45 P.M. Likud lawmaker: Forming Netanyahu gov't 'won't be simple'
Likud lawmaker David Bitan told Channel 12 News “There is no chance of forming any other government but a Netanyahu-led one,” adding that “even that won’t be simple.” (Haaretz)
10 P.M. Exit polls: Netanyahu has path to slim majority only if Bennett joins him
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party emerges as the next Knesset’s biggest, according to exit polls by Kan public broadcaster, Channel 12 News and Channel 13 News, but the incumbent doesn’t have a clear path to a majority coalition.
In all three polls, should Naftali Bennett's Yamina party join a Netanyahu-led coalition, it would have enough seats for a tight Knesset majority.