JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent election victory means the government he forms — his fifth — is likely to espouse more nationalistic views and show little inclination to negotiate peace with Palestinians.
Netanyahu finished neck-and-neck with his main opponent, former army commander Benny Gantz, but has a larger number of small political parties willing to align with him to form a coalition and assume leadership of the government. The Blue and White party led by Gantz conceded defeat Wednesday, a day after voters went to the polls.
The prime minister’s right-wing bloc will not be substantially bigger than the one he has had up to now, but it is likely to include much more extremist figures after Netanyahu used the campaign to court fringe parties. Among them was Jewish Power, led by disciples of Meir Kahane, an American-born rabbi who won a seat in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, before he was banned from politics in 1988 for advancing a racist agenda.
It is not yet clear how beholden to the far-right parties Netanyahu will be. He is likely hoping they will be able to legislate a form of immunity by which he can avoid prosecution if, as expected, the Israeli attorney general indicts him on corruption charges this year. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.
What is new in the incoming Knesset is potentially stiff opposition from Gantz’s centrist Blue and White bloc. His showing in the election proved that Netanyahu is not invincible and can be challenged, analysts said.
However, the Blue and White coalition, formed on an ad hoc basis with many egos and little ideological cohesiveness, will struggle to stay unified. And as a neophyte party, how it will legislate is difficult to predict.
“How hard will they push for peace? How much pushback on legislation?” said Yael Patir, the Israeli director of the liberal Jewish advocacy organization J-Street.
She added that it was “a very black morning” because the left fared so poorly in the election. Similarly, the Labor Party, once practically synonymous with the state of Israel, plummeted into single digits in terms of parliamentary seats.
President Donald Trump has said a long-anticipated peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, has been working on would be released sometime after the vote.