מורן אזולאי
Moran Azulay
Photo: Ynet
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, left, and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu cast their votes in Tuesday's election

The race for Israel's next prime minister is still undecided

Analysis: 3 main TV channels predict prime minister unable to form 61-seat right-wing majority even if he wins over ex-ally Bennett, while anti-Netanyahu camp has numbers it needs - if its members can only work together

Moran Azulay |
Published: 03.24.21 , 02:42
While exit polls for the March 2021 election project Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will struggle to form a 61-seat right-wing bloc, there are still many unknowns, primarily the shift caused by the 600,000 so-called double envelope ballots that could take days to tally.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • These ballots, which were cast by medical staff, soldiers, coronavirus patients, quarantined citizens and state officials serving abroad, account for five Knesset seats, if not more.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו יאיר לפיד
    בנימין נתניהו יאיר לפיד
    Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, left, and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu cast their votes in Tuesday's election
    (Photos: Oz Mualem, Likud Party)
    But with the anti-Netanyahu bloc comprising diverse political elements such as the predominantly Arab Joint List and the right-wing Gideon Saar, it seems unlikely that it would be able to form a majority government either - a fact that could plunge Israel into its fifth election cycle since April 2019.
    Even if Netanyahu does manage to form a narrow government, it will be far from the dream coalition he campaigned for.
    A government leaning on far-right extremists Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir (of whom the incumbent said on the campaign trail that "they can want whatever they want, but they are not part of my government") will not be a good one for him.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מצביעים בתל אביב
    מצביעים בתל אביב
    An Israeli woman casts her vote in Tel Aviv in Tuesday's election
    (Photo: AFP)
    It is also yet unclear whether this government will possess the mandate it needs to initiate far-reaching reforms - including within the justice system.
    Nevertheless, the gap between the pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps is again extremely small.
    The exit polls in the March 2020 elections gave the Likud leader's bloc 60-61 seats, but the final tally dropped to 58 and then went up to 59 after Gesher head Orly Levy-Abekasis ditched the union with Labor and Meretz that put her flailing party back in the Knesset.
    Everything now depends on the voter turnout across the country's various political bases.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    נפתלי בנט מצביע בקלפי ברעננה
    נפתלי בנט מצביע בקלפי ברעננה
    Yamina head Naftali Bennett and his wife
    (Photo: Eli Dasa)
    Either way, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who swore to not send Israel into a fifth election cycle, could emerge as the kingmaker.
    The man who seemed to face off against Bennett for the same voters, New Hope leader and Likud defector Saar, seemed to have collapsed completely.
    Looking at the polls, it seemed Saar's potential center-left voters fled to Blue & White and Labor when they realized their bloc was in danger.
    The biggest surprise was actually Benny Gantz, whose focused and on-point campaign seemed to have achieved its goal.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בני גנץ
    בני גנץ
    Blue & White chair Benny Gantz
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    Until the last minute, pundits were talking about the former IDF chief seeing the Knesset from the outside in future, with voices from both sides of the aisle calling him to drop out of the race.
    Not only did he pass the electoral threshold, but positioned himself firmly above it.
    In a case where the numbers shift and a government is not formed – Gantz could potentially demand that his coalition agreement with Netanyahu be fulfilled and he become prime minister as he was promised way back in April of last year.

    Talkbacks for this article 0