benami161_Artur WidakNurPhoto via Getty Images_netanyahu Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Netanyahu Again?

For most Israelis, a vote for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was a vote not for an indicted politician, but for a strong leader with a clear vision. With the centrist Blue and White party and the Jewish left offering no such clarity, the Arab Joint List has emerged as the country's only true defender of democracy.

TEL AVIV – Israel’s third electoral showdown in a year was not kind to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Even though his right-wing bloc of ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties won more seats in parliament than the center-left bloc headed by former army chief Benny Gantz, he still lacks the parliamentary majority required to form a government. This result does not bode well for Israeli democracy.

Israel may well be trapped in limbo for months to come. Netanyahu’s 58-seat bloc is a cohesive and coherent alliance, unlike the 55-seat opposition bloc. Comprising Gantz’s Blue and White coalition, the Labor-Meretz Alignment, and the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority political parties, the latter could hardly serve as the basis for a new government, even if it held a majority of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

The Gantz-led bloc could nonetheless still prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, especially if Avigdor Lieberman – the leader of Israel Our Home, which won seven seats – sticks to his pledge never to join the Likud-led coalition. But one wonders whether a self-proclaimed enemy of the Arab-Israeli “fifth column,” who has advocated transferring Israel’s Arab citizens to a Palestinian state, would ever side with an opposition that includes the Arab Joint List.