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Israel election: Preliminary results show Netanyahu poised to return to power


JERUSALEM, Israel – As polls closed on yet anotherelection day in Israel, millions of Israelis waited anxiously to see if, after five rounds of voting in less than four years, they would be able to finally choose a clear winner and produce a stable government to successfully run the country.

Preliminary results show that former prime minister and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu might very well be that winner this time around. His bloc of right-wing, religious parties is slated to draw up to 62 seats, the number of mandates needed to form a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. 

Yesh Atid, the party of Netanyahu’s main rival, interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, appeared set to garner only 24 seats, according to the polls. The assortment of parties that would be willing to support him in forming an anti-Netanyahu government were only slated to reach 55 seats. Two key parties appeared as though they would not pass the electoral threshold. 

The final result of what could be the country’s most decisive election yet — bringing an end to an endless cycle of elections — will not be known for at least the next few hours and possibly the next few days or even weeks, if votes are contested. In addition, if any of the parties hovering at the electoral threshold do indeed break through, the final numbers could change dramatically.

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu cast their vote in the Israeli general election on Nov. 1, 2022 in Israel.

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu cast their vote in the Israeli general election on Nov. 1, 2022 in Israel. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

"Netanyahu will be the next prime minister," Aviv Bushinsky, a political commentator and a former chief of staff for Netanyahu, told Fox News Digital after the exit polls were published on local broadcasts.

"For a long time it was unclear, and we went from one election to another but while the last government was creative, it was unstable," he said, adding that the results — if accurate — show that the public felt that lack of stability and was not happy with an Arab party being included in the makeup of the outgoing government. 

Although, he warned, "If the Arab parties do pass the threshold, then the whole political map could change." 

Assaf Shapira, Director of the Political Reform Program at the Israel Democracy Institute also told Fox News Digital, that "we will have to wait for the final results to see if this is accurate," 

 Former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to supporters through inside a modified truck with a side bulletproof glass during a campign event on Oct. 29, 2022 in Bnei Brak, Israel.

 Former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to supporters through inside a modified truck with a side bulletproof glass during a campign event on Oct. 29, 2022 in Bnei Brak, Israel. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

"All of the exit polls predict between 61-62 seats for the pro-Netanyahu political bloc, which was quite expected," he said, adding however that previous exit polls in 2021 also gave Netanyahu between 61-62 seats, but they missed one small Arab party that ended up becoming a decisive factor that allowed the other factions to unite and oust Netanyahu from power. 

"It could be that the exit polls do not know how to treat the Arab public and understand the trends in that sector less," he said.

According to polls leading up to Tuesday’s vote, the Arab public, which makes up around 20 percent of Israel’s population, was expected to stay away from polling stations, and it is still unclear if that happened. Israel’s Central Election Committee said that overall voter turnout was the highest ever since the 1999 election — a vote that saw Netanyahu, in his first round as prime minister, defeated by former prime minister Ehud Barak. 

While Israel’s parliamentary system means that no single political party can win an election outright, the largest party is usually the one afforded the first chance to try forming a coalition with other factions. It’s a complicated jigsaw of smaller parties that typically align with similar ideologies. mostly relating to the conflict with the Palestinians. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid attends a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. Israel is holding its fifth national election in under four years, and once again the race is shaping up as a referendum on former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness to rule.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid attends a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. Israel is holding its fifth national election in under four years, and once again the race is shaping up as a referendum on former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness to rule. ( Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Over the past four years of political limbo, however, alliances have also been forged over the question of whether Netanyahu, who in July 2019 became the country’s longest-serving prime minister, should lead the country.

Netanyahu is currently embroiled in a high-profile criminal trial over allegations of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. It is these charges, which include activities involving lavish gifts and high-stakes business deals with millionaires and national infrastructure companies, that forced the former prime minister to first call an election in Dec. 2018. 

Breaking up his government four years ago, Netanyahu was hoping for a decisive election result that would shore up his support and prove that despite the criminal investigations, he was still beloved by a loyal public. Following an election in April 2019, however, he was unable to pull together a government, with key allies and political partners unwilling to overlook his legal woes. Netanyahu was forced to call an unprecedented second election five months later. 

The Israeli-Arab vote was said to be lower this time around. Netanyahu recently told Fox News Digital that he and his party Likud are popular within the community. 

The Israeli-Arab vote was said to be lower this time around. Netanyahu recently told Fox News Digital that he and his party Likud are popular within the community.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The September 2019 vote also produced no clear winner and no clear path for Netanyahu — or any other political leader — to establish a government and the country was forced to hold a third election in March 2020, which produced a short-lived coalition with current Defense Minister Benny Gantz. 

That shaky alliance lasted less than a year before a fourth election was held in March 2021, with Netanyahu’s rivals, including for the first time ever an Arab-Israeli political party, finally ousting him from power. Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu ally, became prime minister, with Lapid, serving initially as alternate prime minister. But internal disagreements — mainly over core ideological differences between the eight factions — led to that government's downfall in June. Tuesday’s vote appears to make it unlikely that such an alliance will arise again this time.

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