Benjamin Netanyahu Makes A Comeback, Israel PM Concedes Defeat

Jerusalem- Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid Thursday conceded defeat in the general elections and congratulated opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whose coalition of right-wing parties secured a comfortable majority in parliament to form the next government and end the political impasse plaguing the country.

With 99 per cent of the ballots counted, Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc has taken a comfortable lead with 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset, paving way for his triumphant return.

Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party won 32 seats, while outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid got 24 seats.

The biggest surprise of the polls after the final count was over is the far-right Religious Zionism party which won 14 seats becoming the third largest party.

Netanyahu’s other likely coalition partners, Shas and United Torah Judaism won 11 and seven seats, respectively bringing the bloc’s total count to 64.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity won 12 seats, and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman got six seats, one more following the counting of the double-envelope votes.

Arab-majority parties Hadash-Ta’al and United Arab List each got five seats but the breakaway Balad party failed to cross the threshold of 3.25 per cent required for a Knesset entry.

Labour, once a ruling party in Israel, got just over the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold winning four seats.

Left-wing party, Meretz, was just a few thousand votes short of making it into the next Knesset, ending a three-decade-long era of political representation for it since its formulation in 1992.

Lapid, who has served as interim prime minister for the past four months, said that he called Netanyahu and congratulated him on his victory.

He further added that he’s instructed all departments of the Prime Minister’s Office to prepare for an orderly transfer of power.

“The State of Israel is above any political consideration,” Lapid said in a tweet. “I wish Netanyahu luck for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel.”

Israelis voted on Tuesday for an unprecedented fifth time in four years to break the political impasse that has paralysed the Jewish nation.

According to the latest updates from the Central Elections Committee, Netanyahu’s Likud party will receive 31 seats, Prime Minister Lapid’s Yesh Atid 24, Religious Zionism 14, National Unity 12, Shas 11 and United Torah Judaism will have eight seats.

Among the smaller parties to have crossed the 3.25 per cent threshold required to qualify for the Knesset or parliament representation, Yisrael Beytenu will have six lawmakers, Ra’am is likely to win five seats along with Hadash-Ta’al. The Labour Party will win just four seats, according to the update.

The Left-wing Meretz party, which is hovering close to the threshold, seems to have slipped slightly even further from qualification.

Arab party Balad, which split from the broader coalition of the Arab parties to go independent, also seems to be failing the threshold mark.

The Netanyahu-led government would see a sharp drop in women in the coalition.

Current results project 9 female lawmakers in parties that back the former prime minister, with none among the ultra-Orthodox factions, according to the Times of Israel newspaper.

Based on these results, the likely Netanyahu-led coalition will have nine female lawmakers six in his Likud party and three from the far-right Religious Zionism, though the figure could end up rising through ministerial appointments.

The outcome marks a stunning comeback for Netanyahu, who is currently on trial in three corruption cases, after a short stint in opposition.

Israel has been locked in an unprecedented period of political stalemate since 2019, when Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

About 6.78 million Israeli citizens were eligible to elect their 25th Knesset.

Some 210,720 new voters were able to vote for the first time, accounting for about four to five seats, adding an interesting dimension to the polls.

Netanyahu’s return to power is likely to see an upward trajectory in Indo-Israel ties.

An advocate of strong bilateral ties with India, Netanyahu was the second Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in January 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his historic visit to Israel, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, in July 2017 when the chemistry’ between the two leaders became the subject of intense discussion.

India and Israel elevated their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership during Modi’s visit to Israel. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has focused on expanding a knowledge-based partnership, which includes collaboration in innovation and research, including boosting the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

India’s relations with Israel have remained steady and strong even with the incumbent leadership, showing distinct signs of further progress with I2U2 (India, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates) and discussions around a Free Trade Agreement, but it has not matched the heightened hype so visible with Netanyahu in power.

For many years, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, appeared to be politically invincible. But he met with a rude jolt in 2021 after being ousted by an unprecedented coalition of parties whose only common goal was to see his ouster.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1949, Netanyahu holds the record of being the longest-serving Prime Minister in the country’s history.

Having served in the position earlier between 1996 and 1999, Netanyahu in 2020 surpassed the record held by one of the Jewish state’s founding leaders, David Ben-Gurion.

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