Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has phoned Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, the big surprise of yesterday's election and made it clear he is interested in building a coalition with the former TV celebrity. Netanyahu said, "We have an opportunity to do very great things for the country. The election campaign is behind us and now we can concentrate on deeds for the benefit of all Israel's citizens."
With almost all the votes counted Netanyahu's Likud-Beytenu looks to have won a disappointing 31 seats, having expected more than 40 when the campaign began. Lapid's Yesh Atid party was the big winner of the elections winning an impressive 19 seats even though the polls throughout the campaign only predicted 10 seats.
Labor, under Shelly Yachimovich, has 15 seats (compared with 13 in the outgoing Knesset); Habayit Hayehudi, under Naftali Bennett, 11 seats (7); Shas 11 seats (11); Meretz 6 seats (3); Tzipi Livni's Hatenuah 6 seats (-); United Torah Judaism 7 seats (5); Hadash 4 seats (4); Ra'am-Ta'al 5 seats (3); National Democratic Assembly 3 seats (4); Kadima 2 seats (28).
The voter turnout was 66.6 percent, 1.4 percent higher than in the 2009 election, but lower than seemed likely at the earlier stages of voting yesterday.
Despite declaring that he wants to build the broadest possible coalition, Netanyahu hinted last night that he sees Lapid's party as the central pillar in any government he forms. He said, "This is also an opportunity to make changes that Israelis have wished for that all citizens will serve (the State). I intend leading these changes and forming the broadest possible coalition, and I will begin that task today."
He added, "The government I form will be based on the following principles: military strength to confront the challenges facing us and mainly preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; secondly economic responsibility against the backdrop of the continuing global crisis; thirdly, diplomatic responsibility as we strive for true peace; fourthly strengthening equality of carrying the national burden; fifthly, reducing the cost of living and first and foremost lowering the prices of Israeli apartments."
Lapid said, "Israelis today said no to extremism and no to anti-democratic policies."
Yachimovich said, "I will do all in my power to bringh together an opposition bloc to this extreme capitalist government that will be cruel to its citizens. I spoke with Yair Lapid and congratulated him on his achievement. I spoke with Tsipi Livni, Zehava Galon, and the ultra-orthodox factions. There is a major chance that Netanyahu will not be able to form a government.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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