Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won his third term in office, but only just. Israeli Haaretz daily has the final results from Tuesday's general election, showing that the right-wing coalition between Netanyahu's Likud Party and the Yisrael Beiteinu of ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has won only 31 seats in the 120-member parliament (Knesset). Likud itself lost substantial ground, with only 20 seats compared to 27 in the previous Knesset.
Netanyahu will in all likelihood get the mandate to form a new government but the maths is going to be more complicated than most pollsters and, indeed Netanyahu himself, expected. Twelve political parties made it to the parliament, with the seats split evenly between the left-wing camp and those affiliated with the right.
Netanyahu's tough talk on Iran and the Palestinians appears to have failed to gloss over widespread discontent with the economic situation and the unpopular public spending cuts of the outgoing government.
The main winner is Yair Lapid, a former talk-show host and a newcomer on the political scene. His Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party campaigned for state support for small businesses and the squeezed middle class, snatching the votes of the secular Israelis disgruntled with the mainstream parties. Lapid is now in charge of the second biggest parliamentary bloc with 19 seats, followed by the left-wing Labor party.
A weakened Netanyahu could turn to Lapid to join the government coalition, but it's not yet clear whether that would soften Israel's foreign policy in any substantial manner. Negotiations could drag on for several weeks.
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