09/18/2019, 17.09
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Elections in Israel: Christian leader sees uncertainty, a unity government without Netanyahu

With 92 per cent votes counted, Likud and the Blue and White party have 32 seats each, down over April vote. Lieberman will play a key role in forming the new government. For the outgoing PM, a fifth mandate appears a very distant possibility. Sobhy Makhoul calls for an end to Israel’s nation-state law and guarantees for equal rights for all citizens.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The first thing that emerges from the vote counting is great "uncertainty". In light of this, "it will be difficult to form a government," said Sobhy Makhoul, of the Maronite Church of Jerusalem and administrator of the Christian Media Center, speaking to AsiaNews about Israel’s elections.

Like Benny Gantz, for Makhoul, the only hope "is the formation of a grand coalition that includes Likud and Blue and White, but with as prime minister someone other than Netanyahu". This is the “only viable solution to create a government,” said the Christian leader, who is an expert in local politics.

Only when vote counting is finished can the parties start to look at what they can do. The latter should be over by this afternoon.

The result is expected to “be close between the two main challengers. No one at present can form a government on their own.” With 92 per cent of ballots counted, the outgoing Likud of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the Blue and White coalition led by his main rival Benny Gantz have 32 seats each, fewer than in the April election.

In terms of coalition-building, a Likud-led right could have about 55 seats, whilst its centrist rivals could count on perhaps 59. Neither has the required number, 61, to have a majority in the Knesset.

Avigdor Lieberman and his Israel Beytenu seems to be the winner with at least 9 seats (almost double over what it had before), and will be crucial for any new government.

As soon as the first exit-poll results were made public, the right-wing leader, who broke with Netanyahu a few months ago, immediately called for negotiations to set up a coalition government including the Likud, Blue and White and Israel Beytenu.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin could pick the party with the most votes, but it is clear that the chances of the outgoing Prime Minister for an historic, fifth term are slim. What is more, Netanyahu is at the centre of at least three corruption inquiries and could end up in court in October. His political survival is thus increasingly tied to the support of the religious, annexationist right, but that may not be enough.

Some feelers have been put out from both the Lieberman and the Gantz camps for a possible grand coalition, the only arrangement that could break the deadlock at present. Gantz’s only condition is Netanyahu’s exclusion from the cabinet.

For Sobhy Makhoul, this “is the only viable solution. We are facing a deadlock. The united Arab list won 13 seats and has already said that it is not available to sell its votes to form a government.”

"Lieberman holds the best cards and can play king maker. He already has stated that he does not intend to make concessions to the Orthodox Jews and will probably be the third pillar of a government of national, more liberal-leaning unity. This, in my opinion, is the best solution for now."

Things should be clear by Friday. "The absence of a government leaves many questions and issues unresolved, first and foremost Trump's Mideast peace plan.” In this context, Christians hope that the new government "will guarantee equal rights for all [Israeli] citizens and repeal the law that makes Israel a nation-state" for Jews.

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