Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies fell short of winning a parliamentary majority in Israel's latest election, according to a final vote count released Thursday, leaving a political deadlock that put the longtime leader's political future in question. The fourth election in just two years brought a stinging rebuke for Netanyahu, the most dominant figure in Israeli politics in a generation. Adding to the pain, he lost ground to former partners who vowed never to sit in a government with him again. Under Israel's fragmented political system, the AP reports, Netanyahu could still try to reach across the aisle and cobble together a governing coalition. But the makeup of the new parliament will make that extremely difficult, giving his opponents the upper hand in coalition talks. It's also quite possible Israel will go into a fifth election later this year.
"It is clear that Netanyahu does not have a majority to form a government under his leadership," said Gideon Saar, one of the former Netanyahu allies who now oppose him. "Action must now be taken to realize the possibility of forming a government for change." To form a government, a candidate must work with allied partners to secure a 61-seat majority in the Knesset. Netanyahu and his allies captured 52 seats, his opponents 57. In the middle were two undecided parties: Yamina, a seven-seat nationalist party, and Raam, an Arab Islamist party that won four seats. Divisions in the pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs could make it difficult for either side to secure a majority with them. "It's apparent that our political system finds it very difficult to produce a decisive outcome,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, who called it Israel's worst political crisis in decades. "This is a result of inherent weaknesses in our electoral system, but it's also because of the Netanyahu factor."
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