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Jerusalem - Exit Polls: Netanyahu, Yair Lapid Win Narrow Majority In Israeli Election

Published on: January 22, 2013 03:04 PM
Last updated on: January 22, 2013 05:54 PM
By: Reuters
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Israeli politician Yair Lapid and chairman of the Yesh Atid party speaks during a campaign rally in Jerusalem, January 15, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90Israeli politician Yair Lapid and chairman of the Yesh Atid party speaks during a campaign rally in Jerusalem, January 15, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Jerusalem - In a stunning setback, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line bloc fared worse than expected in a parliamentary election Tuesday, exit polls showed, possibly forcing the incumbent Israeli leader to invite surprisingly strong moderate rivals into his government and soften his line toward the Palestinians.

TV exit polls showed the hard-liners with about 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament, a bare majority, and the counts could change as actual votes are tallied.

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The unofficial TV results had Netanyahu winning only 31 seats, though he combined his Likud Party with the far-right Yisrael Beitenu for the voting. Running separately four years ago, the two won 42 seats.

If they hold up through the actual vote counting, the unexpected results could be seen a setback for Netanyahu’s tough policies. The coalition-building process could force him to promise concessions to restart long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

Addressing cheering supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu pledged to work for a broad-based government. Also he said, he would show “responsibility in striving for a genuine peace.”

Netanyahu made a quick phone call to a newcomer on Israel’s political stage, Yair Lapid, whose centrist party debuted with a strong showing of 19 seats, making it the second-largest party after Netanyahu’s.

Nearly 67 percent of Israel’s 5.5 million eligible voters took part, more than in previous elections — apparently giving boosts to the centrists, especially Lapid’s new “Yesh Atid” or “There is a future” party.

Lapid’s surprise showing could make him a key Cabinet minister should he decide to join Netanyahu’s government.

A Likud official said Netanyahu phoned Lapid after the results and told him, “We have the opportunity to do great things together.”

Lapid and other centrist parties have said they would not join Netanyahu’s team unless the prime minister promises to make a serious push for peace with the Palestinians. The moderates also want an end to the generous subsidies and military draft exemptions given to ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

“We have red lines. We won’t cross those red lines, even if it will force us to sit in the opposition,” said Yaakov Peri, a former security chief and one of Yesh Atid’s leaders, told Channel 2 TV.

The conflicting positions of the various parties point up the difficulties facing anyone who tries to set up a coalition government in Israel. If Netanyahu relies only on the religious and hard-line parties, it means constant fights with the opposition over social programs. If he tries to team up with the centrists, it means battles with the ultra-Orthodox over subsidies, as well as internal sniping over concessions to the Palestinians.

Some predicted Netanyahu might even fail to form a government.

“Netanyahu’s victory is a pyrrhic victory, and it is not clear he will be the next prime minister,” said Israeli political analyst Yaron Ezrahi. “Netanyahu will face difficulty in constructing a viable coalition,” Ezrahi said, estimating the life span of the next Israeli government at no more than 18 months.

Netanyahu has won praise at home for drawing the world’s attention to Iran’s suspect nuclear program and for keeping the economy on solid ground at a time of global turmoil.

But internationally, he has repeatedly clashed with allies over his handling of the peace process. Peace talks with the Palestinians have remained stalled throughout his term, in large part because of his continued construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu himself has only grudgingly voiced conditional support for a Palestinian state, and his own party is now dominated by hard-liners who oppose even this. A likely coalition partner, Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, which won 12 seats, has called for annexing large parts of the West Bank, the core of any future Palestinian state.

Palestinians viewed the election results grimly, seeing it as entrenching a pro-settlement government.

“Even if Netanyahu brings some center-left parties to his coalition, he will continue building in the settlements, he said that clearly and that is what we expect him to do,” said Mohammed Shtayeh, an aide to the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In all, 32 parties ran in the election, and 11 won enough votes to enter parliament, according to the exit polls. Israelis vote by putting a slip with a party’s initials into an envelope and dropping the envelope into a ballot box, so the process of counting all the votes by hand takes many hours.

Two hours after the polling stations closed, the official Election Commission had published results of only 60,000 votes out of about 3.5 million cast.

In a sign of the times, many Israelis advertised their voting choice by photographing their ballot slips and uploading them to Facebook.


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Read Comments (17)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 22, 2013 at 03:28 PM Ben Says:

exit polls, Likud Beitienu plunges to 31 seats, Yesh Atid surges to 19, Avoda 17, Bennet 12 Shas 12 & Aguda 6.

2

 Jan 22, 2013 at 04:29 PM Kzler Says:

Beiteinu loves basar chalav and so does Lapid but not sitting on a bank

3

 Jan 22, 2013 at 04:37 PM ShmuelG Says:

That is a good news. The future government will be dependent on chareidim to form the smallest of majorities. Bye bye draft!

4

 Jan 22, 2013 at 05:05 PM clear-thinker Says:

Reply to #3  
ShmuelG Says:

That is a good news. The future government will be dependent on chareidim to form the smallest of majorities. Bye bye draft!

Wrong. The time to avoid the draft is over. Yesh Atid is a contervailing group the Chareidim. Additionally the government is going to have problems avoiding decisions by the Supreme Court.

5

 Jan 22, 2013 at 05:28 PM YonahLevi Says:

Likud/Beiteinu + Bayit Yehudi + Shas + UTJ = 31 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 61 out of 120...this is a very good thing, right? Best possible outcome?

6

 Jan 22, 2013 at 06:34 PM clear-thinker Says:

Reply to #5  
YonahLevi Says:

Likud/Beiteinu + Bayit Yehudi + Shas + UTJ = 31 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 61 out of 120...this is a very good thing, right? Best possible outcome?

Not really. With 61 seats there will be a new election in almost no time.

7

 Jan 22, 2013 at 07:23 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #4  
clear-thinker Says:

Wrong. The time to avoid the draft is over. Yesh Atid is a contervailing group the Chareidim. Additionally the government is going to have problems avoiding decisions by the Supreme Court.

1. "Yesh Atid is a contervailing group the Chareidim" sentence makes no sense, probably because it is grammatically incorrect.

2. That's the ISRAELI government you are talking about. They will always find the dubiously legal way to avoid anything they want. They always have.

Mark my word. The Chareidim will not serve. Period.

8

 Jan 22, 2013 at 08:19 PM lbk-new Says:

R' amnon yitzchok didnt win??!

9

 Jan 22, 2013 at 09:25 PM A-P-C Says:

Reply to #5  
YonahLevi Says:

Likud/Beiteinu + Bayit Yehudi + Shas + UTJ = 31 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 61 out of 120...this is a very good thing, right? Best possible outcome?

likud + bayit = 43 to 44 . add lapid 19 and you have 62 or 63. thats what bibi will do.

10

 Jan 23, 2013 at 05:01 AM BaruchGershom Says:

Reply to #4  
clear-thinker Says:

Wrong. The time to avoid the draft is over. Yesh Atid is a contervailing group the Chareidim. Additionally the government is going to have problems avoiding decisions by the Supreme Court.

You forgot to mention that two of the new Yesh Atid MKs are Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Dov Lipman (smicha from Ner Yisroel and still a rebbe), and Rabbi Shai Piron, dean of the Petach Tikvah Yeshiva.

11

 Jan 23, 2013 at 05:05 AM I_Am_Me Says:

Reply to #3  
ShmuelG Says:

That is a good news. The future government will be dependent on chareidim to form the smallest of majorities. Bye bye draft!

Ho on earth do you get that from this article?! From the article you get that lapped won a lot of supporters & was the first person Natanyahu called when he was re-elected. I'm not happy about that since Lapid hates Jews and religious Jews most of all. In fact, he stated if natanyahu does not make peace and enforce the draft he's not joining his government and that worries me. I really am worried what concessions Natanyahu is willing to make to get Lapid into his givernment & you should be worried too instead of taking this as a victory, which it isn't.

12

 Jan 23, 2013 at 05:09 AM I_Am_Me Says:

Reply to #6  
clear-thinker Says:

Not really. With 61 seats there will be a new election in almost no time.

Can you educate me please, I don't understand why if 61% Means elections will be done over shortly. I admit, I don't know much about the politics and voting in Israel. Thanks in advance

13

 Jan 23, 2013 at 07:38 AM savtat Says:

Imagine what could be accomplished if all the parties said we face an existential threat and each of us will do everything possible to participate and help. Call me crazy!

14

 Jan 23, 2013 at 10:05 AM YonahLevi Says:

Reply to #12  
I_Am_Me Says:

Can you educate me please, I don't understand why if 61% Means elections will be done over shortly. I admit, I don't know much about the politics and voting in Israel. Thanks in advance

i think that it's 61 seats, not 61% since there are 120 seats, not 100 that works out to under 51%. I guess it would be more likely for Bibi to form a coalition with Lapid and Bennett's parties, and not have to involve Shas or UTJ...this could be pretty bad for Torah Yidden.

15

 Jan 23, 2013 at 11:45 AM Kzler Says:

Reply to #14  
YonahLevi Says:

i think that it's 61 seats, not 61% since there are 120 seats, not 100 that works out to under 51%. I guess it would be more likely for Bibi to form a coalition with Lapid and Bennett's parties, and not have to involve Shas or UTJ...this could be pretty bad for Torah Yidden.

Amazing, Hizbollah does not attack torah yidden and fatah either??

16

 Jan 23, 2013 at 01:58 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #11  
I_Am_Me Says:

Ho on earth do you get that from this article?! From the article you get that lapped won a lot of supporters & was the first person Natanyahu called when he was re-elected. I'm not happy about that since Lapid hates Jews and religious Jews most of all. In fact, he stated if natanyahu does not make peace and enforce the draft he's not joining his government and that worries me. I really am worried what concessions Natanyahu is willing to make to get Lapid into his givernment & you should be worried too instead of taking this as a victory, which it isn't.

I only meant that with the small number of seats Likud achieved, it would be difficult for Netanyahu to form a majority government without chareidi parties, and we both know that the draft is one of their top issues. I doubt he can form a coalition with Lapid (lapped?) but who knows: as Regan once said, zionist politician is the second oldest profession and it has a lot in common with the first.

I don't know what the outlook of the zionist government will be or what else will happen but I can reassure you of one thing: real chareidim will not serve. Maybe some allegedly religious zionists and/or modern pretend orthodox, but not the real Torah Jews.

17

 Jan 23, 2013 at 02:04 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #12  
I_Am_Me Says:

Can you educate me please, I don't understand why if 61% Means elections will be done over shortly. I admit, I don't know much about the politics and voting in Israel. Thanks in advance

I hope clear thinker will not mind me answering in his stead. What I think he means that such narrow majority coalitions are notoriously unstable in multi-party parlaments: all it takes to bring the government down is for the smallest member of the coalition to decide for whatever reason (for example, the bribe check bounced) to cease their participation in it.

18

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