March 24 (UPI) — According to electoral returns, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s alliance has fallen just short of a ruling majority after the country’s fourth election in two years.
With about 97% of votes counted, the alliance is two seats shy of reaching a threshold that would allow it to govern without a coalition agreement.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party won the most seats, 30, and conservative parties Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious added 29 for the coalition. Sixty-one seats are needed for a governing majority in Israel.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc, led by Yesh Atid winning 18 seats, is also short of a majority.
Early reports indicated that the Yamina Party, which won seven seats, would be among those joining Netanyahu’s coalition. The party, however, has so far declined to formally join any coalition.
The Blue and White Party, which won 33 seats last year under leader Benny Gantz, won only eight seats this time — perhaps due to backlash against Gantz for agreeing to serve as Netanyahu’s defense minister and entering into a power-sharing deal after the third election last year.
Gantz had agreed to join Netanyahu’s administration on a promise that he would succeed Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister in a couple years.
Netanyahu on Wednesday hinted at adding new coalition partners and said Likud’s lead over Yesh Atid was a clear mandate from voters. The prime minister partly campaigned on the success of Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
“Israel is the world champion of vaccines,” Netanyahu said in a report by The Jerusalem Post. “We brought millions of vaccines for everyone just like we made peace deals for everyone.
“I don’t disqualify anyone from sitting with me because the state of Israel demands a stable government.”
Israel’s election on Tuesday was the fourth in less than two years. The first two elections failed to produce a governing coalition, and the power-sharing deal that came from the third vote fell apart in December.