With most of the votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has tied with Benny Gantz’ Blue and White party for Knesset votes, at 35 each. This effectively secures Netanyahu as Prime Minister for a fifth term.
Netanyahu’s bid is aided by the parliamentary configuration of the Israeli government. While both he and Gantz lean toward what would, in America, historically be termed the “right wing”, Netanyahu has an established history of maintaining a fairly rigid ideology and Gantz was seen as being more moderate.
The established history and strengthening ties to foreign powers have encouraged other parties to state an intention to align with Netanyahu. Shas looks to receive 8 seats; United Torah Judaism, 8; United Right, 5 and Kulanu, 4. All of those parties have pledged support to a Netanyahu government. That would put the group at 60 votes, enough to form a coalition even if all of the other groups swung their support behind Gantz.
One concern voiced in the elections was that of voter suppression. This was accomplished by Likud dispersing more than 1000 cameras to members and allies. The cameras were meant to be brought into polling places to record the faces of Arabs who went to the polls, and as the Times of Israel reports, at seventeen polling stations the cameras were brought out, only to have the police called to remove them.
The use of the cameras is illegal according to Israeli law.
The numbers of voting Arabs were down to historic lows in this election. Use of the hidden cameras was defended as attempting to reduce voter fraud, the possibility of which was used as an issue to drive Likud members to the polls. On the other hand, concerns were raised about Arab votes being targeted for reprisal, and the numbers – with Arabs voting in far fewer numbers than their historical representation – seem to bear out the accusations of suppression.
With a depressed Arab turnout – historically leaning toward center-left – in an election which was split between the two major parties, a strong argument can be made that the camera were the deciding factor, with stoked fears drawing Likud to the polls despite a tepid support of Netanyahu (Times of Israel reports that a weekend rally was first shifted to a smaller location, then abandoned entirely due to low participation) and fears of reprisal keeping Arabs from voting.
Netanyahu is facing indictments in three distinct corruption cases, ranging from bribery to voter fraud, as indicated by Haaretz. His electoral victory makes a successful prosecution of him, his wife and others involved in the scandals less likely.