Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won this week’s Israeli election, final results showed Thursday, clearing the way for him to return to power. Prime Minister Yair Lapid congratulated Netanyahu and instructed his staff to prepare an organized transition of power, his office said.
“The state of Israel comes before any political consideration,” Lapid said. “I wish Netanyahu success, for the sake of the people of Israel and the state of Israel.”
With 100% of the votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud party has lost one Knesset seat from the initial projections, scoring 31 out of 120 parliament seats. Netanyahu expected to form the country’s most right-wing government in history when he takes power, likely in the coming weeks.
United Torah Judaism is up one seat to eight, and no other changes were registered after the final tally was revealed. For the first time since its founding in 1992, the left-wing Meretz party has officially not passed the electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset.
While the electoral threshold requires 3.25% of the total number of votes in Israel in order to qualify for the Knesset, Merez received only 3.16% of the total votes for the elections held on Tuesday.
The party required less than 4,000 more votes in order to pass the threshold, and it’s failure to do so is a blow to Israel’s political center and left-wing blocs.
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon on Thursday called the results "disastrous for Meretz, Israel and myself."
According to Galon, “our voters decided to support Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s party at our expense. I want to say clearly that I’m also responsible, since I was the one who took on this mission.”
Meanwhile, tallying the 460,000 envelopes of Israelis who voted away from their designated ballot boxes - dubbed "double envelopes" - is nearly done, with some 20,000 more votes set to be counted.
According to an unofficial estimate, Yisrael Beytenu will gain another seat at the expense of Likud, bringing Aavigdor Liberman's party's total to six.
While the Knesset seat ratio may still change by the time the votes are fully counted, it is clear that Netanyahu’s victory is assured.
The Likud party received 1.1 million votes, some 265,000 more than Lapid’s Yesh Atid, who received 17.8% of total votes, and Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Religious Zionist party received 10.6% of total votes.
Transportation Minister and Labor Party Chairwoman Meirav Michaeli is expected to give a statement Thursday evening. Labor received only four seats. Michaeli is facing criticism from inside the left-wing camp over her decision not to join forces with Meretz ahead of the November 1 vote.
Despite the seemingly large gap between Netanyahu’s bloc and their opponents, in reality the elections were very closely tied, but seeing as Meretz and the Arab Balad party did not pass the electoral threshold, some 287,000 votes were discounted.
“Emotions are high and the results are disappointing,” Meretz MK Yossi Raz told Ynet on Thursday. “There was worry, but I gambled we would pass the electoral threshold. Half of the public voted against this government. It has a 65-seat majority due to an unreasonable and undemocratic electoral threshold. But, this the political system and we need to deal with this result.”
According to Raz, “We had worse outcomes in 2009 when we received only 3% of the vote. There wasn’t the electoral threshold then. I don’t place blame on the threshold, but it needs to be lowered. You don’t succeed in everything, and I think we weren’t convincing enough.
“There’s a younger, religious generation to whom we don’t appeal, and leftist parties around the world are facing issues that come from a distaste for social democracy.”
Associated Press contributed to this report
First published: 17:52, 11.03.22