Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to win a ruling majority in an election that produced a virtual tie between his right-wing bloc and a centre-left grouping that would be led by former military chief Benny Gantz.The outcome, according to almost complete results published on Wednesday, dealt a new blow to Israel’s longest-serving leader who was already weakened by the inability to put together an administration after an inconclusive election in April, Agency reported.
But with coalition-building again key to forming a government, it could be days or even weeks before it becomes clear whether the wily politician hailed by supporters as “King Bibi” has been dethroned after a decade in power.
With Israeli media reporting more than 90 percent of votes counted in Tuesday’s election, the bloc led by Netanyahu’s Likud party was more or less even with a likely grouping headed by Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party.
A Likud-led bloc looked poised to control 55 of parliament’s 120 seats, with 56 going to a centre-left alliance, numbers falling short of a majority government of 61 lawmakers.
A Likud spokesman said the leaders of right-wing factions met Netanyahu at the prime minister’s office on Wednesday and pledged to work with him to form the next government.
The ballot’s wildcard, former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, emerged as a likely kingmaker as head of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, projected to capture nine seats.Netanyahu, 69, appeared fatigued and hoarse in a 3 am election night speech to party faithful earlier on Wednesday in which he said he intended to form a “Zionist government”, without Arab parties that could lend support to Gantz.
Gantz has not ruled out a unity administration with Likud but has said Blue and White would not join such a government if it included Netanyahu, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister, who has denied any wrongdoing.