Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared headed toward victory Wednesday, with 80% of the ballots from national elections counted and showing that voters gave him and his far-right allies what looks like a stable majority in the country’s parliament.
Votes were still being counted and results were not final. But if preliminary indications were correct, Israel was potentially headed to its most right-wing government, bolstered by a strong showing from the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party, whose members use inflammatory anti-Arab and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
The initial results pointed to a continued rightward shift in the Israeli electorate, further dimming hopes for peace with the Palestinians and setting the stage for possible conflict with the Biden administration and Israel’s supporters in the United States.
The early results also showed that Netanyahu had overcome his detractors, who claimed he was not fit to rule while on trial for corruption and have refused to sit with him in government. Netanyahu's partners have promised to help him evade a conviction.
“We are on the verge of a very big victory,” Netanyahu, 73, told supporters at a gathering in Jerusalem early Wednesday. “I will establish a nationalist government that will see to all Israeli citizens without any exceptions.”
With Netanyahu and his allies projected to win more than the 61-seat majority needed to form a government, the country’s protracted political crisis may be headed toward a conclusion, but the country remains as divided as ever.
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