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March 25, 2021 8:27 am

Israeli Far-Rightists Spurn Islamist Party, Clouding Netanyahu Coalition Prospects

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech to supporters following the announcement of exit polls in Israel’s general election at his Likud party headquarters in Jerusalem March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prospects of forming a new coalition government after an indecisive election were further complicated on Thursday by a far-right refusal of any prospective parliamentary partnership with an Islamist party.

Partial tallies from Tuesday’s ballot showed Netanyahu’s conservative Likud and ideologically kindred factions short of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset — raising the possibility he would seek some sort of accommodation with the United Arab List.

While political commentators saw inclusion of the UAL — which was forecast to win four seats — in a Netanyahu-led government as unlikely, some predicted the party might instead pledge not to support any opposition no-confidence motions.

In exchange for such protection from an unlikely ally, Netanyahu would agree on measures to improve conditions for Israel’s 21% Arab minority, the commentators said.

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But Religious Zionism, an ultranationalist party run by Jewish settlers and forecast to take six seats, indicated Netanyahu could not rely on its support if he reached an arrangement with the UAL, which has pro-Palestinian sympathies.

“No rightist government predicated on UAL will arise. Period. Not (with UAL) on the inside, nor the outside, not through abstention, nor through some other kind of (scheme),” Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich said on Facebook.

UAL has signaled openness to backing the next government, whether under Netanyahu or his centrist rival Yair Lapid, who with like-minded politicians appears set to control 57 seats.

A Netanyahu-led coalition that includes Religious Zionism controls 52 seats, the partial results show.

“Sometimes coalitions include people who don’t really like each other,” UAL’s Waleed Taha told Israel’s Army Radio.

He said his party was not, at this time, “talking about improving our personal roles” — an allusion to cabinet posts.

Asked if UAL might, from the opposition, provide ad-hoc parliamentary support for a Netanyahu-led coalition with Religious Zionism, Taha said the onus was on the far-rightists.

“If it is acceptable, to the people that you mentioned, that all of the subjects that we raise are accepted, then it would appear they’ve have changed their stripes,” he said.

Another potential kingmaker, former defense minister Naftali Bennett, whose nationalist Yamina party appears to have won seven seats, has been non-committal on which way it may swing.

Final results in the politically polarized country’s fourth election in two years were expected to be announced late on Thursday or on Friday.

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