Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on winning the Israeli elections, the prime minister’s office announced on Thursday, just under 48 hours after the polls closed.
With almost all votes counted, the latest projections suggest that former prime minister Netanyahu and allied parties will capture 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Lapid and his allies are predicted to win 51. And Hadash/Taal, an Arab party that would not support either leader, is expected to win five.
Israel’s Central Election Committee later on Thursday announced the final allocation of seats for the 25th Knesset, giving Netanyahu and his likely political allies 64 seats in the legislature, enough for a governing majority.
President Isaac Herzog will begin consultations with politicians on forming a new government after results are officially certified on November 9, he said on Wednesday.
Netanyahu’s return to the head of government could spell fundamental changes for Israeli society. Netanyahu’s government would almost certainly include the Jewish nationalist Religious Zionism/Jewish Power alliance, whose leaders include Itamar Ben Gvir, who was once convicted of inciting racism and supporting terrorism.
Asked by CNN on Tuesday about fears that he would lead a far-right government if he returned to office, Netanyahu responded with an apparent reference to the Ra’am party, which made history last year by becoming the first ever Arab party to join the Coalition government of Israel.
“We do not want a government with the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports terrorism, denies the existence of Israel and is quite hostile to the United States. That is what we are going to present,” Netanyahu told CNN in English at his polling station in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s allies have talked about making changes to the judicial system. That could put an end to Netanyahu’s own corruption case, in which he has pleaded not guilty.
Netanyahu himself has been a major issue not only in Tuesday’s election but in the four that have preceded it, with voters – and politicians – splitting into camps based on whether they want the man generally known as Bibi in power or not.
Part of the difficulty in building a stable government over the last four elections has been that even some political parties that agree with Netanyahu on the issues refuse to work with him for personal or political reasons of their own.
The election was marked by the highest turnout since 2015. The Central Election Committee said 71.3% of eligible voters cast their ballots, which was more than in any of the last four elections that produced stalemates or short-lived governments. .