While the final results of Tuesday’s election in Israel are still being counted, it is clear at this point that neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Benny Gantz, or their respective parties, Likud and Blue and White, have garnered enough support to form a coalition to lead the next Israeli government.
It takes at least 61 members out of the 120-seat Knesset to form a governing coalition, and with Prime Minister Netanyahu and former Chief of the General Staff of the IDF Gantz finishing in a dead heat, each will turn to smaller parties in the coming days to try to form a government. This week’s election was Israel’s second in 2019, after Netanyahu was unable to form a government.
Many see Avigdor Lieberman, a former defense minister under Netanyahu, as a kingmaker in the election. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party – which has insisted on excluding the ultra-Orthodox from the next government – is poised to gain between 8 to 10 seats, and could play a major role in deciding which candidate enters office.
Prior to the election, Lieberman and Gantz advocated for a unity government, where Likud and Blue and White would rotate leading the country. This appeals to many Israelis, who believe the country cannot afford to hold a third election. Israelis also want a government to address myriad issues, ranging from a growing budget deficit to a delay in the appointment of senior officials such as judges and police chiefs. In addition, a government is needed to review President Trump’s upcoming regional peace plan, and also to act decisively if its borders are threatened.
Israel has had successful national unity governments in the past, including a rotational premiership that included former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres in the mid-1980s. At a time of growing polarization in the country, Israeli lawmakers would be wise to embrace a unity government and move forward in dealing with the country’s major issues.