The merger between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu failed to deliver the results the two parties anticipated, but even with a depleted faction Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was poised for reelection.
After pledging to start forming a new coalition as soon as Tuesday night, Netanyahu placed a call to Yair Lapid, whose centrist party, Yesh Atid, emerged as the surprise de jour when it gained as many as 18 Knesset seats, according to projections.
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"We have an opportunity do great things for the State of Israel," Netanyahu told Lapid on Tuesday night.
"With the elections behind us, we can focus on taking action for the benefit of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said.
Lapid at Yesh Atid HQ, Tuesday (Photo: Yaron Brener)
In a private conversation, Netanyahu stated that he considers Lapid a "true partner," adding that a faction that has received so many mandates cannot stay in the opposition.
The joint Likud-Beiteinu ticket was said to have received 33 mandates in the elections – a sharp drop from the 42 mandates that two parties currently have. But members of the ruling party downplayed the fact it was significantly impaired as it headed into another term.
In a Facebook message posted shortly after the preliminary results were released, the prime minister thanked his constituents and emphasized his re-election.
"The citizens of Israel asserted that they want me to keep serving as prime minister and to form the broadest coalition possible," he said. "These results pose an opportunity to make many changes that would benefit the Israeli public… Many challenges are ahead."
Netanyahu, Lieberman on Tuesday (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Gideon Sa'ar, who currently serves as education minister and is ranked third on the Likud-Beiteinu list, echoed the sentiment.
"I'm of the opinion that this government has to be as broad as possible in order to allow it to deal with the defense, economic and social issues that Israel is facing," he said.
Knesset Member Danny Danon, number nine on the list, admitted that the Likud anticipated a different outcome.
"I won't deny that we expected more mandates, but the bottom line is that we won," he said at a Likud-Beiteinu event in Tel Aviv. "Benjamin Netanyahu will continue being prime minister of a government led by the Right bloc."
The Likud served as the ruling party over the last four years even though it failed to win the majority of votes in the 2009 elections. While it remains as such, the surprise surge by the centrist Yesh Atid could force Netanyahu to form a more moderate coalition.
Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman joined forces in October, announcing they were merging the Likud's 27 mandates with Yisrael Beiteinu's 15. Campaign advisor Arthur Finkelstein predicted the joint ticket to win as many as 45 Knesset seats at the time.
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