Home News Israel With final votes counted, Gantz’s Blue and White takes two-seat lead

With final votes counted, Gantz’s Blue and White takes two-seat lead

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President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, shake hands at the memorial ceremony for the late President Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, on September 19, 2019. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The nearly final results of Israel’s national election give the centrist Blue and White party of Benny Gantz a two-seat lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Blue and White finished with 33 seats to Likud’s 31.

The final total leaves the centre-left block with 57 seats and the right-wing bloc, including the religious parties, with 55. The total for the centre-left bloc includes the Arab Joint List and its 13 seats, though the Arab parties have never been a member of a ruling coalition. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh has been alternating in public statements between saying he would consider joining a left-wing government led by Gantz and saying that he wants to lead the opposition.

Neither bloc has the 61 seats needed to form a ruling government coalition.

READ: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH AFTER ISRAEL’S TOO-CLOSE-TO-CALL ELECTION

The results leave Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party with 8 seats and the position of kingmaker since he has only committed to sitting with a unity government comprised of Blue and White and Likud.

The Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party still has nine seats, the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism has eight seats, the Yamina alliance of right-wing parties has seven seats, Labour-Gesher has six seats and the Democratic Camp led by Ehud Barak has five.

The results come this afternoon, Israel time, as the counting of the ballots cast by diplomats, soldiers and hospital patients and staff come to an end.

Also today, Netanyahu called on Gantz to hold talks toward the forming of a unity government. The call came after the leaders of all the right-wing and religious parties signed a document pledging to recommend Benjamin Netanyahu as the next prime minister and to enter a coalition government as a single unit.

UPDATE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out to his rival Benny Gantz, the head of the centrist Blue and White party, today asking him to form a “broad unity government.” The response from Gantz and his fellow leaders was swift: no deal.

“Benny, we must set up a broad unity government, as soon as today,” Netanyahu said. “The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation.”

The nearly final results of Israel’s national election as of this afternoon there give Blue and White a two-seat lead over Netanyahu’s Likud party, 33 to 31.

Gantz, not mentioning Netanyahu by name, said today that he will lead a “liberal” coalition without Netanyahu’s haredi Orthodox allies. Moshe Yaalon, a Blue and White leader and former Israeli defence minister, said plainly that the party will “not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu,” echoing what the party had stated throughout the election campaign.

Blue and White has said that it would consider a unity government with Likud if Netanyahu steps down as the party’s leader. Netanyahu and Likud have shown no signs of that being a possibility.

President Reuven Rivlin will begin speaking with party leaders on Sunday to determine who will be given the first chance at forming a governing coalition.

The final total leaves Gantz’s centre-left bloc with 57 seats and the right-wing bloc, including the religious parties, with 55. Neither bloc has the 61 seats needed to form a ruling government coalition.

The total for the centre-left bloc includes the Arab Joint List of parties and its 13 seats, though the Arab parties have never been a member of a ruling coalition. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh has been gone back and forth in public statements between saying that he would consider joining a left-wing government led by Gantz and that he would rather lead the opposition from outside the coalition.

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