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March 23, 2021 5:17 pm
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Israeli Election 2021: Exit Polls Show Netanyahu With Largest Party, but Narrow Coalition Options

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media after his meeting with the Israeli citizen no. 5,000,000 to get the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 8, 2021. Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

Exit polls released Tuesday night following Israel’s 2021 elections showed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud remains the largest party, with the ability to form a 61-seat governing coalition appearing uncertain for either the “anti-Netanyahu” or “pro-Netanyahu” blocs.

Final results will not be known for certain until Wednesday at the earliest. While initial exit poll results indicated a narrow path for Netanyahu to form a government by securing the support of Naftali Bennett and his right-wing Yamina party, updated tallies indicated the increasing possibility of a dead-lock.

In an election that has effectively become a referendum on the prime minister, the group of parties that have pledged to support a government led by Netanyahu came in behind the group hoping to oust him.

However, neither bloc yet appears to have a clear way to form a 61-seat Knesset majority to form a government.

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The latest results from Israel’s Channel 12 gave Likud 30 seats and allotted 18 for Yesh Atid, led by Netanyahu’s main rival, Yair Lapid. The Arab-dominated Joint List and the Sephardi religious party Shas each won 9 seats, with center-left Labor winning 8.

Each of Yamina, the far-right Religious Zionism, the secular right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White won 7 seats. The Ashkenazi religious party Yehadut HaTorah, left-wing party Meretz, and Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party — which defected from Likud in order to replace Netanyahu — each won 6 seats.

Those results would give the anti-Netanyahu bloc 61 seats, and Netanyahu’s bloc 59 — even if he can count on the support of Bennett, who has sought to replace him but has publicly promised not to sit in a government led by Lapid.

Public broadcaster Kan’s updated results gave Likud 30 seats, Yesh Atid 18, Shas 9, and the Joint List and Blue and White both 8. It gave Yamina, Labor, Religious Zionism, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Yehadut HaTorah 7 seats each, and 6 seats apiece for Meretz and New Hope.

Channel 13 showed Likud winning 31 seats. Yesh Atid won 17, with Shas winning 9. The Joint List and Blue and White won 8 seats, with Yisrael Beiteinu, Yamina, Yehadut HaTorah, Meretz, and Labor each winning 7 seats, and New Hope and Religious Zionism counting 6 apiece.

Both of those counts would leave the anti-Netanyahu bloc and the group of Netanyahu and allies, plus Yamina, at a 60-60 deadlock.

Besides the key role now to be played by Yamina, the two electoral surprises appear to be the poor showing by New Hope, which was at one point riding high in the polls; and the failure of the Arab party Ra’am, which Netanyahu had courted, to pass the electoral threshold for entrance to the Knesset.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated with more recent exit poll results

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