By Jonathan Tobin, Israel Hayom—
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted his supporters at Likud Party campaign headquarters early Wednesday morning, his demeanor as much as his words made the outcome of the vote clear to everyone.
While he neither claimed victory nor conceded defeat, his body language screamed that he knew that he had not won. His talk of working for the creation of a “Zionist” government rather than the “right-wing” coalition that he pledged to build in April when he thought he had triumphed was telling.
There will be no Likud-led coalition of the party’s natural partners on the Right and among the religious parties. And that means the last chapter of the Netanyahu era is about to unfold.
Despite the celebratory air in the Israeli media that is dominated by his foes, the prime minister isn’t finished. If he can keep his party united behind him – no mean feat given the predatory ambitions of those who hope to succeed him – the outcome of the coming weeks of coalition negotiations is far from certain.
But with more than 99 percent of the vote counted – and with it looking like Likud will finish a close second to Blue and White in the competition to be the largest party in the Knesset – the idea of another Netanyahu-led government is far from the likeliest outcome.
If the Joint Arab List of anti-Zionist Arab parties breaks with precedent and recommends to President Reuven Rivlin that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz should be given a chance to build a coalition, it could set in motion a series of events that will mean a new prime minister.
The vote was not a straightforward victory for Gantz. The combined total of seats won by Blue and White and its smaller partners on the left is actually smaller than that of the right-wing religious bloc that pledged to support Netanyahu. Continue Reading….