After 99% of the votes have been counted, Kadima holds a slim one seat lead over Likud, 28 to 27 (there are 120 seats in the Knesset). In theory that should prompt the President, Shimon Peres, to appoint Tzipi Livni, Kadima’s leader, as the new PM tasked with building a coalition government.
The problem is that Labor only got 13 seats, Israel Beiteinu got 15 seats, Shas got 11 seats and Meretz won a measly 3 seats, less than two of the Arab parties which won 4 seats apiece. The Arab parties won 11 seats in total, increasing their count by one (indicating that the sought-after boycott of this election by Israeli Arabs never materialized). Three right wing religious Jewish parties won 12 seats between them.
Putting the math together indicates that unless Livni can convince Israel Beiteinu to join her, then she can’t form the new gov’t because she won’t have 60 votes. Even if she could convince Shas, that won’t be enough without Israel Beiteinu, the new kingmaker in Israeli politics. Make no mistake, Avigdor Lieberman will demand quite a bit to bring his party into a coalition, so much so that Livni will have to ask herself whether she’d be corrupting the platform upon which she ran this race.
The Likud, with Netanyahu at the helm, is the more likely winner of this contest. They may have fallen short on the number of seats, but the right wing parties give them 12 seats that Kadima can’t get, Shas has essentially committed themselves to the Likud and Israel Beiteinu’s more natural “home” would be the Likud and its right wing policies.
Avigdor Lieberman is this contest’s first winner with Netanyahu a close second.
Please fasten your seatbelts because Israel is about to encounter turbulence with the new American administration.
A chart with the election results can be viewed at Ha’aretz.