The long-time prime minister ousted in 2021 has come back with a decisive Knesset majority
Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister of Israel, according to the vote count published on Thursday by the country’s central election commission. Current PM Yair Lapid has called his rival to concede the election and pledge an orderly transition, Israeli media reported.
Preliminary results show Netanyahu’s coalition with 64 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset, with Lapid’s coalition mustering only 51. The Likud leader outperformed his pre-election polling, which showed him at only 60 seats. Officially ratified results will be published next week.
“The State of Israel is above any political consideration,” Lapid said on Thursday. “I wish Netanyahu luck for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel.” The administration has been instructed to prepare for an orderly transfer of power, he added.
Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister with over 15 years in power. His 12-year ruling streak ended in May 2021, when his former aide Naftali Bennett joined forces with Lapid to form a slim majority. Tuesday’s elections were Israel’s fifth in four years, due to repeated Knesset deadlocks.
In addition to the poor showing of Lapid’s Yesh-Atid party and Bennett’s Yamina, the left-wing Meretz party failed to reach the electoral threshold for the first time since its establishment in 1992. Meretz needed just 3,800 ballots to make the cut, according to Channel 12. Party leader Zehava Galon called the result “a disaster for Meretz, a disaster for the country and also a personal disaster.”
Labor chief Merav Michaeli, who refused to merge her list with Meretz, vowed to “fight from the opposition against a coalition that has more indictments than female representatives.”
Hadash-Ta’al, a coalition of Israeli communists and Arabs, won five seats in the Knesset. Their MK Aida Touma-Sliman called the results alarming.
“We are facing a political reality that should be frightening for everyone,” she told Ynet. “It is a reality in which we have a right wing, and not just the usual ‘classic’ right that we know, but a right wing willing to use violence, wild incitement and deep racism.”
Meanwhile, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban hailed Netanyahu’s victory by tweeting “Mazel tov!” – meaning ‘congratulations’ – to the new prime minister. “Hard times require strong leaders. Welcome back!” Orban said.
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