Israel Election Results: Lieberman Says No Agreement Reached With Gantz

Election kingmaker lauds change of tune from ultra-Orthodox parties ■ President Rivlin to start consultations Sunday, looking for 'stable government,' top aide says ■ Allegations of fraud referred to police ■ Final count now in

Avigdor Lieberman speaks at his party's campaign headquarters after election exit polls were published, September 17, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

With the final count of votes now in (minus a few), President Reuven Rivlin is set to start consultations with party leaders on Sunday to get their recommendations for prime minister.

Rivlin would seek a "stable government," his top aide said Friday. A national unity government is said to be the preferred option for the two major parties. 

Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to rival Benny Gantz to join him on Thursday, saying he will meet him "at any hour." Kahol Lavan also seems in favor of sitting in a broad coalition with Likud, but with Gantz in charge – and, according to Yair Lapid, still without Bibi. 

Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, who, with eight seats, has been confirmed as the election's kingmaker, has also reiterated his support for a "broad liberal unity government," which would include his own party, Likud and Kahol Lavan. 

■ Netanyahu clings to power – but his days are numbered
Netanyahu’s loss creates opening for Trump, U.S. Jews
■ How Arab voters deprived Netanyahu of victory

Liberal Tel Aviv, radical settlers: How Israel voted

Kahol Lavan has won 33 out of 120 Knesset seats, with Likud following with 31 seats. Netanyahu's bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties that have agreed to negotiate together, currently stands at 55 seats. The center-left bloc has 57 seats.

Leaders of the Joint List celebrate their success in the polls, Nazareth, September 17, 2019.
AFP

The Joint List of Arab-majority parties repeated their feat from 2015, regaining their spot as the third political force in the Knesset with 13 seats, with leader Ayman Odeh now asking to become head of the opposition.

Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Shas has nine seats, and its Ashkenazi counterpart United Torah Judaism eight. The religious Zionist far-right took a blow, with alliance Yamina only scoring seven seats, while Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit failed to enter the Knesset altogether.

The two left-wing alliances managed to scrape through, with Labor-Gesher at six seats, and the Democratic Union at 5 - and therefore sans former PM Ehud Barak, who had the tenth spot on the slate. 

1:18 P.M. Final results are in – no change in seats 

The Central Elections Committee has confirmed the final results, with 15 polling stations investigated for irregularities (and fraud, like in Fureidis) still on hold. 

These results are final, but not official – not until they are presented to President Rivlin on Wednesday. To ensure a robust count, the election board is still to conduct another 2,000 tests on local polling stations, most of them picked at random. Technically, the results could still change, but this is highly unlikely. [Jonathan Lis]

Leaders of Kahol Lavan, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, at the Knesset, May 27, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

11:05 A.M. Lieberman says didn't talk to either Netanyahu or Gantz

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman dispelled rumors he had reached an agreement with Kahol Lavan about a potential coalition on Friday. "I did not talk to either Netanyahu or Gantz, and I don't intend to talk to them until after the party meeting on Sunday," the election kingmaker said in a Facebook post.

Lieberman also mentioned that ultra-Orthodox party officials had approached him in a more conciliatory spirit, perhaps paving the way for a right-wing coalition. The secular leader, whose staunch support for the draft bill is said to have forced Netanyahu to dissolve the last Knesset, reiterated his demands for joining the government, including the draft bill, civil marriage, transport on Shabbat. [Chaim Levinson]

10:32 A.M. Kahol Lavan reportedly looking into boosting their chances at forming a government by taking key Knesset roles

Vote count at the Knesset, September 19, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Kahol Lavan might be in a position to boost their chances at establishing a government by using their results in the elections to take over key parliamentary roles, party sources told Haaretz.

The party is looking at ousting Likud heavyweight and Knesset Speaker Edelstein, which tenure Kahol Lavan accepted to renew in April, and who turned out to be a difficult political opponent in the redux campaign.

It has also set its sights on the chairmanship of the regulatory committee, a crucial post that can impact multiple things - including expediting legislation. [Jonathan Lis]

8:45 A.M. Candidate most likely to succeed should get the nod, president's adviser says

President Reuven Rivlin will facilitate the establishment of a "stable government as quickly as possible," Director of the President's Residence Harel Tobi said on Friday, saying the nomination should be given to "the candidate with the highest chances."

The urgent need to form a government "is particularly acute, after undergoing two election campaigns in one year, and in a climate of political and government instability," Tobi said. 

8:34 A.M. More than 99% of votes counted, with some still outstanding for fraud investigations

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin shake hands at the memorial for late President Shimon Peres, Jerusalem, September 19, 2019.
GPO

The Central Elections Committee announced overnight 99.4% of votes had been counted. 

Some ballots have been held up for further scrutiny, and the count is still on hold for 14 polling stations. The committee referred allegations of fraud to the police in the town of Fureidis, south of Haifa. 

According to the latest figures, the number of voters is 4,458,167 (out of 6,394,030), which puts turnout at 69.72%. In turn, the number of eligible votes is 4,430,566, which sets the threshold to enter the Knesset (3.25%) at 143,993. [Jonathan Lis]

8:00 A.M. Netanyahu may fade out like Nixon 

Despite all the huffing, puffing and incitement that characterized the election campaign, there was none of the violence some had come to expect on Tuesday. 

Even if it is impossible to estimate how many twists in the plot will be required until he is eventually forced to leave, it seems likely this will be Netanyahu's fate now - to slowly go the way Nixon and Ehud Olmert went before him. Read Amos Harel's full analysis here.

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