Netanyahu Becomes Israel’s Next Prime Minister

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Exit polls showed former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on track to return to Israel’s top leadership position after a turbulent election, the fifth election in four years, according to multiple reports.

With 99% of votes counted on Thursday, Netanyahu’s Likud party garnered 32 seats in the 120-seat parliament, which, along with the seats from religious and nationalist parties that compose Netanyahu’s bloc, edged him over the threshold to form a majority government with 65 seats, according to Israel National News. The opposing bloc won just 51 seats, while Arab parties, which could have upset results from exit polling after Tuesday’s election, failed to pass the threshold for joining the parliament. (RELATED: ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu Is Poised For A Political Comeback. Here’s What It Means For Biden’s Agenda)

Opposition leader an interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid conceded Thursday, saying he “instructed all branches of the Prime Minister’s Office to prepare an orderly transfer of power” in a statement, according to Axios. 

“The State of Israel is above all political consideration and I wish Netanyahu success for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel,” said Lapid.

Netanyahu will have four weeks to form a coalition.

This year’s election saw the largest voter turnout in 23 years, according to Bloomberg.

Friday’s final pre-election polls showed Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition just one seat shy of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, according to The Wall Street Journal. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s anti-Netanyahu, center-left alliance garnered 56 seats in Friday’s polling, with the possibility of including four seats held by pro-Arab parties.

Arguments over ideological extremes, economy and security issues represented in each party dominated the discourse in the run-up to Tuesday’s election, according to The Guardian. Lapid urged the electorate to vote against the “extremist agenda” represented in Netanyahu’s likely coalition.

Arab parties appealed to left-wing voters to show up at the polls amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence, The Guardian reported.

The “Bibi” government includes the ultranationalist party led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose meteoric rise to the political stage concerned Arab neigbhors as well as the U.S., Axios reported.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog reportedly attempted to assuage the Biden administration’s fears of a rising radical right in Israel during a visit to Washington days before the election, urging White House officials to “calm down” and “let the democratic process take its course,” according to Axios.

Netanyahu is already Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and was only forced out of office in 2021 after a succession of inconclusive elections. The security hawk reentered the ministerial race after a “government of change,” cobbled together by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in 2021, collapsed amid high-level party defections and failure to reinstate a long-running citizenship law.

Analysts said the only thing holding the coalition together was its opposition to Netanyahu.

After months of attempting to organize a coalition government ideologically at odds, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Lapid agreed to hold a vote dissolving Israel’s parliamentary body, the Knesset, in June. Sources close to Bennett informed the Jerusalem Post that the two hoped calling the coalition’s end themselves would preclude opposition leader Netanyahu from retaking the Knesset first.

“Attempts to stabilize the coalition were exhausted,” Bennett said in a statement.

Lapid stayed on as a provisional prime minister until the November 1 election. Initial polls after the June dissolution showed Netanyahu’s Likud party with a greater proportion of votes than any other party in a hypothetical election, winning 34 seats to the next largest party’s 20, according to Israel National News.

This story has been updated with additional results and the concession of Prime Minister Lapid.

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