Israeli Prime Minister and chairman of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu,… (Menahem Kahana / AFP/Getty…)
JERUSALEM – A final tally released Thursday of votes from this week's parliamentary election in Israel broke the virtual tie between rival ideological factions, giving the right-wing bloc, including religious parties, 61 seats in the Knesset, compared with 59 seats for the center-left, including Arab parties.
But the final figures -- a slight change from the preliminary 60-60 dead heat that was reported after Tuesday’s vote -- are not expected to alter the course of coalition talks. Those negotiations are expected to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party seek to form a broad-based government with the centrist Yesh Atid party, the surprising second-place finisher.
The new coalition government, likely to be formed in the next month, is expected to adopt more moderate policies than Netanyahu’s previous right-wing coalition, which focused on confronting Iran’s nuclear program and expanding West Bank settlements.
The final election count reflected about 220,000 ballots from soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and others who could not go to the polls Tuesday. After tallying the additional votes, one seat was lost by Arab party United Arab List and one was gained by the religious nationalist Jewish Home.
According to the Central Election Committee, conservative parties in the next Knesset will be led by Netanyahu’s Likud (20 seats), Jewish Home (12 seats), nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (11 seats) and ultra-Orthodox parties Shas (11 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats.)
The center-left was led by Yesh Atid (19 seats); Labor Party (15 seats); former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Movement (6 seats); leftist Meretz (6 seats); Arab parties United Arab (4 seats), Hadash (4 seats) and Balad (3 seats); and centrist Kadima (2 seats), which dropped from the largest party in the last Knesset to the smallest in the next one.
Netanyahu and former TV journalist Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, are expected to create the core of the next coalition, combining their seats with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which ran on a joint slate with Likud.
That would give them 50 seats, still short of the 61-seat minimum majority needed to control the 120-member parliament.
To reach a majority they are expected to turn to Jewish Home, which opposes Palestinian statehood and wants to annex parts of the West Bank, the religious parties or some of the center-left parties, such as Kadima and Movement.
Trial in Indian gang-rape case begins
Israel elections deal a major setback to Netanyahu
Egyptian human rights group says police abuses continue