The fact that, according to Monday’s exit polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to increase the Likud’s electoral share to 36-37 seats – despite the three indictments against him, despite the venomous criticism of him from Blue and White/Labor-Gesher-Meretz/Avigdor Lieberman, despite the media efforts by journalists who long ago stopped being fair and objective analysts and turned into pundits whose goal was to see Netanyahu go to jail – is a huge achievement.
Netanyahu has won the fight of his life for the public’s trust. Even though his trial is scheduled to begin on March 17, he walked out of the election head held high. The large section of the public who went out to support the Likud were first and foremost putting their faith in Netanyahu. They were voting to protest the indictments against him, the legal system and the police force and all the other parts of the system that have ignored his many successes as prime minister and dared to claim that he was working solely on his own behalf to avoid prison.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, on the other hand, scored a painful failure. Theoretically, he managed to maintain Blue and White’s electoral strength at 33 seats. But he, along with the other members of the party cockpit Gabi Ashkenazi, Yair Lapid, and Moshe Ya’alon, couldn’t convince the public that they were capable of governing. Gantz’s lack of political experience and recent reports about his company were his downfall.
Polls tell us that the election results will make it difficult for Netanyahu to form a government, because he only has the support of about 60 MKs from the Likud, Yamina, United Torah Judaism, and Shas parties. Still, the center-left has only 39-41 seats (counting Blue and White and Labor-Gesher-Meretz). Even if Lieberman joins them, they’ll still only have about 47. If the Joint Arab List were to cooperate with Gantz, it would give the latter 60 MKs at best.
One thing is certain, President Reuven Rivlin won’t have to hesitate next week about whom to entrust with forming a governing coalition. Netanyahu is the only possibility, and he has more than one option for success.
Header: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands next to his wife Sara as he speaks to supporters following the announcement of exit polls in Israel’s election at his Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen