The vote counting in the Israeli election is well underway now. According to the Jerusalem Post, with most votes counted, the center-left party leads Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right party by one Knesset seat — 32-31.
When the Post added the seats of other parties, it estimated that parties likely to join a Netanyahu coalition would reach 56 seats, compared to 55 seats for the opposition. However, one outlet was predicting that Likud will lose one of these seats to the Joint List, an opposition party. If so, the count would be reversed — 56 seats for the center-left and 55 for the center-right.
There are a total of 120 Knesset seats, so in either scenario, both sides would be scrambling for those last few seats. But the side deemed to be closer gets the first crack at forming a government, as I understand it.
In view of the results, I see three possibilities going forward: (1) a government led by Netanyahu that would rely on support from right-wing and Orthodox religious parties, (2) a government led by his opponents that would rely on support from Arab parties, and (3) some form of coalition party in which power is shared between Netanyahu’s party and the center-left opposition.
The second option seems untenable. It would make the government of the Jewish state hostage to Arab interests, which are inimical to a Jewish state. Israeli Jews could not be expected to tolerate such a situation.
Of the three options, a coalition government, is what most Israelis prefer at this time, I take it. However, it’s not what either member of the would-be coalition wants, and Netanyahu, in particular, seems determined to fight against it, no matter what concessions he has to make to the right-wing and Orthodox religious parties.
Perhaps a clearer picture will emerge when all of the votes are counted. However, I expect things to remain murky for a while thereafter.
This report from the Times of Israel provides a good sense of just how murky.