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The leader of the United Arab List, Mansur Abbas, cast his vote on Tuesday in Maghar (northern Israel).Mahmoud Illean / AP

The fourth legislative elections held in less than two years have not yet served to break the political blockade in Israel. After the closing of the polls on Tuesday night, the count has been prolonged with parsimony this Wednesday due to the special measures due to the pandemic. With 88.5% of the votes counted, the wing of right-wing parties that supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains at the gates of the majority, while the opposition bloc surpasses it in number of seats, although without overtones. to be able to form a viable coalition.

The official scrutiny is expected long and complex. After the end of the count of the ordinary ballots, scheduled for this Wednesday, the Central Electoral Commission will have to review some 450,000 special votes (10% of the total) pending examination. These are the so-called “double envelopes”: the suffrage of the military, diplomats, sailors or prisoners and those who generally vote outside their winery of habitual residence, to which in these elections is added that of sick or quarantined by the covid-19. The president of the commission, Orly Ades, has warned that the final results will be made public before the start of the Sabbath, early in the afternoon of Friday, which this year precedes the celebration of the Jewish Passover week.

"It is foreseeable that the counting of the votes of the double envelopes will add some deputy to the pro-Netanyahu bloc, but it is difficult that even then he can form a government," predicts electoral analyst Daniel Kupervaser. In reality, the still incomplete results of the elections reproduce those of last year's legislative elections, with a practical tie reflecting the polarization that the country is experiencing. But this time Netanyahu needs to add the support of the two ultra-Orthodox parties, the Jewish supremacists of the Religious Zionist Party and Bennett's radical right.

“The entry into Parliament of a racist anti-Arab force is not the greatest danger for Israel, but the commitment that the prime minister has made with these extremists on the regime of apartheid for the Palestinians and demolition of the institutions of the rule of law in order to save themselves from their trial for corruption ”, highlights the anti-occupation and pacifist activist Yehuda Shaul.

All of these Netanyahu allies in a future government – already singled out by the Hebrew press as the most right-wing in the history of the Jewish state – will take a heavy toll on portfolios with political and economic influence. But the paradox of these elections lies in, for the first time, the Likud leader would also be in the hands of an Islamist Arab formation to guarantee himself a majority of 61 deputies in a Knesset (Parliament) of 120 seats.

"No one has us in their pockets yet," the leader of Rama (acronym for United Arab List), Mansur Abbas, has warned on the radio to indicate that he may end up agreeing with the conservative bloc or with the opposition. Its strategy is to secure investments in public services and citizen security for the impoverished Arab communities, which represent 20% of the Israeli population, regardless of the color of the government.

The analyst Kupervaser maintains that "Netanyahu should not have great internal problems to govern with all these parties, if a coalition agreement is reached." "The external image of Israel among the diaspora in the United States and in Europe, however, will deteriorate due to the presence of Jewish supremacists," he points out. "In order not to have to pay that price, it will have to look for defectors among parliamentarians from the opposition bloc."

In the absence of definitive results, Netanyahu's party has suffered a setback at the polls, going from 36 seats in March 2020 to just 30 a year later. "Despite the enormous success of vaccinations, Likud has regressed, warns the columnist of Haaretz Anshel Pfeffer. "The Israelis have not forgotten Netanyahu's erratic management during the pandemic before the immunization campaign," he adds.

The ruling party has also suffered the defection of one of its leaders, former minister Gideon Saar, who dared to challenge Netanyahu in internal primaries and whose party, Nueva Esperanza, has won precisely six seats. Saar can become the alternative to the far right as a Likud partner if he manages to reconcile with his former mentor and return to the discipline of the hegemonic right.

The centrist Yair Lapid has received 17 seats for his Yesh Atid party, a meager result to ratify him as the leader of the opposition at the head of a nebula of up to seven different forces weighing between five and eight seats. If the accounts finally come out and he manages to agree on antagonistic parties, the former television host Lapid will be able to lead a change in the political cycle in Israel before the blockade ends up forcing the fifth consecutive elections. The drop in participation in the legislatures on Tuesday, with the lowest rate (67.2%) since 2009, reflects that citizens are beginning to ignore the polls.

Lapid would have to reissue the maneuver that led to the election of an opposition Knesset president in 2020 in order to usher in Netanyahu. It is the lowest common denominator that brings together the opposition parliamentary front, also called "anyone but Bibi", in reference to the prime minister's family nickname.

From Palestine, Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayeh was pessimistic when analyzing the Israeli elections. Speaking to Reuters, he considered that electoral results so skewed to the right do not "offer hope for peace."


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