The nationalist coalition led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has snagged at least 54 seats in the country’s March 17 elections, while the leftist coalition backed by President Barack Obama’s allies has won less than 44 seats, according to Israeli media reports.
That’s a defeat for the U.S. president, whose D.C.-based allies boosted Netanyahu’s Israeli rival, Isaac Herzog.
“They’ve done everything they can to shape a Netanyahu defeat,” John Bolton, a former U.S ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News March 17. “That’s something I think Congress should definitely look into.”
Obama and his deputies want Israel’s government to support or allow a landmark strategic deal with Iran that, broadly speaking, would reduce economic sanctions in exchange for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program. Netanyahu has refused to make that deal, and Obama has repeatedly criticized and sidelined Netanyahu.
But Netanyahu’s own party seems to have won 30 votes in the 120-seat parliament. He’s also backed by several nationalist parties, who will give him at least 54 seats as he begins negotiations with several small swing-voting parties to get the needed parliamentary majority.
Herzog’s party won only 24 seats, and his left-wing allies — including the 14-seat Arab Muslim party — boosted his coalition up to roughly 40 seats.
So Netanyahu only has to win roughly 10 swing-voting legislators to his side, while Herzog has to win over 25 legislators. That’s major advantage for Netanyahu as the negotiations continue for the next several weeks.