Netanyahu clinches it
With around 99% of the vote counted, Israel’s former longtime leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is in prime position to reclaim the prime ministership, with his Likud Party having secured 32 parliamentary seats out of 120, the most of any party. Bibi is now on track to form a coalition of 64 seats made up of extremist ultra-nationalist, anti-Arab, and anti-LGBTQ parties, as well as ultra-Orthodox groups. Many post-mortems will be written in the weeks ahead, but one of the biggest stories is the failure of Meretz, a flagship left-wing party, to reach the 3.25% threshold needed to even make it into the Knesset, marking the first time that Meretz won’t sit in parliament since its founding in 1992. Israel’s left-wing establishment is pointing the finger at Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli, who in the run-up to Israel’s fifth election in under four years, refused to merge with Meretz to boost the left’s electoral prospects, and the anti-Bibi bloc more broadly. Netanyahu will now do his usual shtick to try to cobble together a coalition. Though he has the numbers on paper, this won’t be a cakewalk: Many of Bibi’s “natural partners” will make their support contingent on certain demands, like portfolio leadership positions and cash for their communities. Bibi will have to make everyone happy to get over the finish line, and it won’t be easy.