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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud has emerged as the largest party with the all votes counted in Israel's unprecedented fourth election in two years.
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However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc, a patchwork of left, right and centrist factions, is 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.
9:19 P.M. Anti-Netanyahu parties divided on next move
Parties opposed to another Netanyahu-led government have begun debating their next moves. Some prominent members of these parties say the focus should be on figuring out a way to overcome ideological differences and form a coalition.
Other party leaders, including Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, believe that a new election is in the offing, are calling for promoting legislation banning someone currently charged with crimes from forming a government, therefore making it impossible for Netanyahu to run in another election.
"We have not managed to crack the formula that will allow the formation of a government of change," one party leader told Haaretz. "The results we achieved are clear, and they give us the opportunity to create an alternative [to Netanyahu], and we will certainly do that." (Jonathan Lis)
8:24 P.M. New Hope lawmaker Shasha-Biton says Likud offered her education portfolio in bid to make her defect
Lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton, a member of New Hope who broke off from Likud in December, told Channel 12 News Thursday that Likud has approached each member of New Hope with offers to convince them to defect so that Netanyahu can create a coalition. Shasha-Biton said she had been offered the role of education minister. "There will absolutely not be any defectors," she said. "We will make an effort to form a government of change and prevent a fifth election." (Haaretz)
8:19 P.M. Near-final results show no change in distribution of seats
The Central Elections Committee has released the full count of the vote, showing no change in the distribution of seats from earlier in the day. Parties supporting Netanyahu total 52 seats, and those opposing him 57, with the uncommitted Yamina and United Arab List parties holding a combined 11 seats. The results are not considered final, as they must be made official before being sent to President Reuven Rivlin next week. (Netael Bandel)
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7:32 P.M. Lieberman says will promote bill barring criminal defendant from forming government
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that he will advance a bill that will prevent a criminal defendant from forming a government.
"I am committed to doing everything I can to prevent further elections. The first step is to pass a bill to prevent a Knesset member with an indictment from forming a government," Lieberman tweeted.
He added that he expects "all parties who seek change to take responsibility and join this bill."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party responded on Twitter that, "A 'bloc for change' truly means an anti-democratic bloc. The change they really seek is to pass laws that exist only in Iran to obstruct candidates and reject the democratic choice of over one million citizens in Israel."
Following Lieberman's announcement, Likud MK Miki Zohar added that, "Legislation that is personally against Netanyahu will be a tragedy for the ages. It will shame us and make us appear to the world as a repressive regime. In a democracy only the public chooses who can lead the country. " (Jack Khoury and Jonathan Lis)
7:05 P.M. Michaeli, Lapid meet to discuss next moves
Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli met with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid on Thursday evening for discussions on potential ways to form a coalition and replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yesh Atid said through its Twitter account. (Haaretz)
4:02 P.M. Sa'ar: Netanyahu has no chance of forming a government
With results nearly complete, Gideon Sa'ar, who broke away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party to start his own, said it was clear that Netanyhau did not have the required majority to form his own government. "Now we must work to exhaust the possibility to form a government of change," he wrote on Twitter. "As I announced on Election Night: Ego will not be a consideration." (Haaretz)
3:53 P.M. U.S. Jewish groups concerned as Kahanists closer than ever to joining government
U.S. Jewish organizations and lawmakers are sounding the alarm over the possibility that Israel’s next governing coalition will include members of a far-right, anti-Arab and proudly homophobic party. Their concern centers on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intention to include the Religious Zionism party in the government, if he is indeed tasked with forming one. (Ben Samuels and Amir Tibon)
3:48 P.M. Vote count ends, final results expected by Friday morning
Election workers finished counting all votes, the Central Elections Committee announced. All the results are now being fed into the committee's systems, and its director general, Attorney Orly Ades, said the final results will be announced by Friday morning. (Haaretz)
2:46 P.M. Islamist leader toed a controversial line. Results proved critics wrong | Profile
When United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning that his party had made it into the Knesset, contrary to exit polls in Israel's fourth election in two years, nobody in Joint List – the rival Arab political alliance Abbas was part of until the latest election cycle – was surprised.
Abbas maintained an air of cautious optimism through the night, saying that he and his party officials knew their voters and were certain they would manage to cross the 3.25-percent electoral threshold.
His optimism proved justified, and the depressed mood that prevailed in party headquarters after exit polls were published on Tuesday night gave way to cries of joy on Wednesday morning. (Jack Khoury)
1 P.M. 95.6 percent of votes counted
The Elections Committee said that as of 1 P.M., the votes cast in 12,123 ballot boxes out of 12,127 have been counted.
In addition, 218,204 sealed ballots have been counted out of 450,000. All together, 95.6 percent of votes have been counted.
The sealed ballots are those cast by people unable to go to their designated polling place, like soldiers, prisoners, and patients in hospitals. (Jonathan Lis)
10:25 A.M. Vote count expected to end by Thursday afternoon
Central Elections Committee Director General Orly Ades told 103FM Radio she expects the vote count to be completed by Thursday afternoon.
As of now, ballots from 12,121 polling stations out of 12,127 were counted.
Moreover, 40 percent of absentee ballots, or so-called "double envelopes" – those of people unable to go to their designated polling place, like soldiers, prisoners and patients in hospitals – were counted so far. (Jonathan Lis)
9:45 A.M. Far-right leader rejects coalition with Islamist party
Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich said he would not allow the formation of a right-wing government with the support of Islamist party United Arab List.
"Terror supporters who negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish country are not legitimate partners for any government," Smotrich said.
Tzachi Hanegbi, a lawmaker from Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, has recently floated the idea of forming a government with the support of the UAL, adding that it's not "ideal." (Haaretz)
7:10 A.M. With 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 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)
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)