Jerusalem CNN —
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on winning Israel’s election, the prime minister’s office said on Thursday, nearly 48 hours after polling stations closed.
With nearly all the votes tallied, the latest forecasts put former Prime Minister Netanyahu and allied parties to take 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Lapid and his allies are expected to win 51. And Hadash/Taal, an Arab party that would not back either leader, is expected to win five.
Israel’s central election committee later on Thursday announced the final seat allocations for the 25th Knesset, giving Netanyahu and his likely political allies 64 seats in the legislature, enough for a governing majority.
President Isaac Herzog will begin consultations with politicians on forming a new government after the results were officially confirmed on November 9, he said on Wednesday.
A return of Netanyahu to the top of the government could mean fundamental changes in Israeli society. A Netanyahu government would almost certainly include the newly emerging Jewish nationalist alliance of religious Zionism and Jewish power, whose leaders include Itamar Ben Gvir, once convicted of inciting racism and supporting terrorism.
Asked by CNN on Tuesday about fears he would lead a far-right government if he returns to office, Netanyahu responded with an apparent reference to the Ra’am Party, which made history last year by becoming the first Arab party ever to do so joined a governing coalition in Israel.
“We don’t want a Muslim Brotherhood government that supports terrorism, denies the existence of Israel and is quite hostile to the United States. That’s what we’re going to bring,” Netanyahu told CNN in English at his polling station in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s allies have spoken about changes in the justice system. That could put an end to Netanyahu’s own corruption trial, in which he pleaded not guilty.
Netanyahu himself was a key issue not only in Tuesday’s election but in the four previous ones, in which voters – and politicians – split into camps based on whether they voted the man commonly known as Bibi to the want power or not.
Part of the difficulty in building a stable government in the last four elections has been that even some political parties aligned with Netanyahu on issues have refused to work with him for personal or political reasons.
The election was marked by the highest turnout since 2015. The Central Electoral Committee said 71.3% of eligible voters cast their ballots, more than in any of the last four elections that have resulted in stalemates or short-lived governments.