Sep 16, 2019

Israel election: Netanyahu fights for immunity as indictment looms

Netanyahu announces on Sept. 10 that he'll annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he's re-elected. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel holds elections Tuesday for the second time in less than 6 months, and the latest election polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party getting close to the magic number of 61 members in the Knesset for a right-wing bloc.

Why it matters: Netanyahu needs a 61-member right-wing coalition to win immunity if the attorney general decides to indict him for 3 cases of corruption after his upcoming hearing on Oct. 3.

  • He'd also need 61 to pass a law allowing the Knesset to overrule the supreme court if it were to conclude Netanyahu’s immunity status were illegal.

Driving the news: The last polls, published Friday, showed Likud tied with Benny Gantz's Blue and White party, with 32 seats each.

  • In the previous elections, they were tied at 35 seats.
  • But the latest polls also showed the right-wing bloc is at 58 or 59 seats. That's the highest since the beginning of the campaign.

The big question: What happens if neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can form a coalition, a scenario that could drag Israel into the most protracted political crisis of its history.

  • Prospects for a unity government look dim given the political stakes on both sides. Gantz has already committed not to sit in a coalition headed by Netanyahu with indictments pending.

Such an extraordinary situation would set up 2 key players:

  • Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, who has the authority to decide who gets the mandate to form the government and who could try to find a compromise that will solve the political crisis.
  • Trump, who supports Netanyahu and already has sought to shore up his political fortunes.

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Israel's Netanyahu and rival deadlocked after election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters of his Likud party after polls closed in the elections. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and the Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz, are tied with 32 seats each with more than 85% of votes counted from Tuesday’s election.

The latest: The center-left and right-wing blocs, led by Gantz and Netanyahu respectively, were also roughly tied with 55-56 seats each on Wednesday morning. The Israel Beitenu party, led by former Defense Minister Avidor Lieberman, looks set to win about 10 seats.

Go deeperArrowSep 18, 2019

Israeli president gives Netanyahu first shot to form government

Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 28 days to form a new government after negotiations for a unity government with Benny Gantz, leader of an opposition center-left bloc, broke down.

Why it matters: Netanyahu would need 61 members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to support his government. His right-wing block won just 55 seats in the Sept. 17 election, though, and he has no clear path to a majority.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019

Israel election: Updated exit polls show Netanyahu dropping further behind

Netanyahu. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party trails the center-left Blue and White party in 3 of 3 exit polls, which continue to be updated after polls closed with real vote counts. All 3 polls show Netanyahu's right-wing bloc falling short of the 61 seats needed for a majority.

Why it matters: Exit polls are not the same as official results, but they are a significant indicator. This was Israel's second election in a matter of months after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition following April's vote. He is facing 3 pending corruption indictments and may have to remain in power to stay out of jail.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 17, 2019