Netanyahu Scrambles as Election Tie Rocks Israel

Center-left Yesh Atid party pulls off a shocker

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 23, 2013 4:39 AM CST | Updated Jan 23, 2013 7:44 AM CST

(Newser) Contrary to predictions, Israel's parliamentary election appears to have ended in what the AP calls a "stunning deadlock," with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition and the center-left bloc tied at 60 seats apiece with nearly all the votes in. Netanyahu is now scrambling to keep his job, but that will require winning the support of the newly-formed secularist Yesh Atid party, which defied predictions with its second-place finish.

Yesh Atid demands to resume Palestinian peace talks and end military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox seminary students, a change strongly opposed by the religious parties in Netanyahu's coalition, the BBC reports. President Shimon Peres is expected to give Netanyahu the first shot at forming a new government.

  • Netanyahu seems to be betting he'll succeed; he gave a victory speech last night in which he thanked Israel for "giving me another chance" to be prime minister, the Jerusalem Post reports. "We must form the broadest coalition possible," he said. "I started working on this tonight."
  • But Yesh Atid seems to have set the agenda for the new government, having firmly moved its "equal share of the burden" policy front and center, YNet News reports.
  • The New York Times has a full profile on Yesh Atid's founder, charismatic journalist Yair Lapid. Though little known in the US, Lapid is a celebrity in Israel. He built his platform around the middle class, building off 2011 populist social justice protests.
  • The results represent a rebuke for Netanyahu, and that's a good thing for President Obama, observes Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast. Bibi will either have a small, unpopular coalition without Lapid, or a quarrelsome one with him.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid gestures as he delivers a speech at party headquarters in Tel Aviv this morning.
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid gestures as he delivers a speech at party headquarters in Tel Aviv this morning.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets his supporters  in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets his supporters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.   (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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