Israelis re-elect Netanyahu, centre-left rises

Friday, January 25, 2013

Binyamin Netanyahu
Image: US State Dept.

Binyamin Netanyahu is set to be re-elected as prime minister of Israel despite losses suffered by his party, Likud. An alliance of centre-left parties has increased their share of the votes.

Likud now have 31 seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu has stated he seeks to form "as broad a coalition as possible". The newly-formed Yesh Atid party led by former television presenter Yair Lapid is set to play an important part in negotiations over the formation of a coalition government.

As a result of Yesh Atid winning 19 seats in the Knesset, Lapid has been approached by both Netanyahu to form a governing party and by Shelly Yachimovich from the left-wing Israeli Labor Party to join an opposition alliance. Yesh Atid supports changing the law to remove the exemptions ultra-Orthodox Jews have from mandatory military service, a move which along with economic reforms to support the middle class they dubbed "sharing the burden".

Yachimovich invited Yesh Atid "to form a coalition of moderate, social, peace advocate and centrist forces without Benjamin Netanyahu as PM". Yesh Atid have rejected that offer, with Yair Lapid saying that they will not join an "obstructive bloc".

The election sees the highest number of women elected to the Knesset, 26 out of 120.

Jay Carney, the White House press spokesman, reiterated American support for Israel: "The United States remains committed, as it has been for a long time, to working with the parties to press forward the goal of a two-state solution. That has not changed, and it will not change." Carney also laid out the White House view on how to deal with Palestine: "We believe that what needs to take place is direct negotiations between the two parties (Israelis and Palestinians) that addresses the final-status issues and results in a two-state solution". The New York Times noted that a newly-formed coalition government may improve the relationship between Netanyahu and US president Barack Obama.

Dan Shapiro, the US Ambassador to Israel, took to Twitter to congratulate Israelis on the conclusion of their voting process: "Mazal tov to the Israeli people on their just completed elections! Always inspiring to see democracy in action! [...] Fascinating election from a US perspective. Every democratic system is different. Important thing is the people have their say." Shapiro said the US "looks forward to working closely with next government of Israel."

Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi stated: "I am not going to say that now the chances of peace are going to be drastically improved or that we are going to see a sort of left-wing coalition and a peace camp that will take over and produce instant peace. You are not going to have a savior, suddenly producing instant peace."