ISRAEL: Exit Polls Not Great For Corrupt Netanyahu

The Associated Press reports:

In an apparent setback for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime Israeli leader on Tuesday fell short of securing a parliamentary majority with his hard-line allies in national elections, initial exit polls showed, putting his political future in question.

Results posted by Israel’s three major TV stations indicated that challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party held a a slight lead over Netanyahu’s Likud party. However, neither party was forecast to control a majority in the 120-seat parliament without the support of Avigdor Lieberman, a Netanyahu rival who heads the midsize Yisrael Beitenu party.

The apparent deadlock sets the stage for an extended period of uncertainty and complicated political maneuvering, but with Netanyahu in a relatively weaker bargaining position. The parties could be forced into a broad unity government that could push Netanyahu out.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Leaders of the Joint List on Tuesday night expressed deep satisfaction with the exit polls that gave them 11 – 13 seats in the Knesset.

“We’re back to being the third largest party in the Knesset,” said Joint List head MK Ayman Odeh. He said that he expected the Blue and White Party headed by Benny Gantz to prefer a unity government with Likud over a coalition with the Joint List.

Odeh and MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) also expressed satisfaction with turnout in the Arab sector, saying that was one of the reasons why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would find it difficult to form a coalition. “The era of Netanyahu is over,” said Tibi. “He will now have to go home or to prison.”

Haaretz reports:

After any Knesset election in Israel, following consultations with all political parties that won parliamentary seats the president gauges which legislator stands the best chance of forming a government.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz hope to be tapped after Tuesday’s election, but a photo finish now complicates the picture. A “national unity” government could avoid or resolve a stalemate if a Likud-led right-wing coalition or a Kahol Lavan-led center-left alliance prove impossible.

Gantz has said his party would not join a government with Netanyahu in it, citing the prime minister’s legal troubles (he faces three corruption indictments pending a hearing). If a partnership with Gantz is the only way to stay off the backbenches, prominent Likud members could try to topple Netanyahu as party leader, some political analysts have said.