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Benjamin Netanyahu wins majority in Israeli election

November 3, 2022

Israel's longest-serving prime minister will return to lead what experts expect will be the country's most right-wing government to date. Benjamin Netanyahu still faces corruption charges, which he denies.

Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by wife Sara Netanyahu, gestures as he addresses his supporters at his party headquarters during Israel's general election in Jerusalem, November 2, 2022.
Israel's longest-serving premier is set to oversee the country's most right-wing governmentImage: Ammar Awad/REUTERS

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured a majority of parliamentary seats in the country's fifth election in four years.

Netanyahu and his right-wing allies won a total of 64 seats of parliament's 120 seats. His own Likud party won 32 seats, while ultra-Orthodox parties secured 18 seats, and a far-right alliance won 14 seats, the Israeli electoral commission said on Thursday.

It means that the country's longest-serving prime minister will reenter office at the head of what many expect will be the most right-wing government in Israel's 74-year-history.

Israel's Netanyahu on verge of comeback

Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, possibly Netanyahu's staunchest rival in the election, congratulated him Thursday and instructed his staff to prepare an organized transition of power.

"The state of Israel comes before any political consideration," the AP news agency quoted the centrist Lapid as saying. "I wish Netanyahu success for the sake of the people of Israel and the state of Israel.''

Lapid's opposition bloc secured 51 seats, the electoral commission said.

Netanyahu's outright majority is projected to end a turbulent era in Israeli politics. However, the 73-year-old Netanyahu still faces charges of corruption, which he has consistently denied. 

What will the future government look like?

After receiving the electoral commission's final vote count, President Isaac Herzog will next week give Netanyahu 42 days to form a government.

Likud's most likely senior partner is expected to be the Religious Zionism party. The far-right party, which doubled its seats in parliament since the last election, is set on controlling Israel's security portfolio.

The party's anti-Arab leader Itamar Ben-Gvir is eyeing the post of national security minister, which would allow him control over Israeli police.

"The time has come to impose order here. The time has come for there to be a landlord," Ben-Gvir tweeted Thursday in a commentary on the latest reported stabbing attack targeting an Israeli.

Bezalel Smotrich, another party leader and West Bank settler,  hopes to become defense minister.

Israelis queue to cast their ballots on the day of Israel's general election in a polling station in in Tel Aviv, Israel November 1, 2022.
It is the country's fifth election in four yearsImage: Corinna Kern/REUTERS

International reactions

Israeli allies have commented on the likely makeup of the future Israeli government.

The US State Department said it hoped Israeli officials would respect "the values of an open, democratic society." Britain, meanwhile, called on all politicians to "refrain from inflammatory language" and respect minorities.

New Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Hungary's Viktor Orban, a longstanding Netanyahu ally, were quick to congratulate the new Israeli prime minister. 

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it was "important to see real democracy in action" and that Ukraine and Israel "share common values and challenges that now require effective cooperation." Ukraine has been hoping to secure more explicit support such as weapons deliveries from Israel, which has fostered comparatively friendly ties with Russia since the Cold War.

rmt/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)