During the campaign, Bennett refused to explain whether he was forming a coalition led by Mr. Netanyahu would help, but he refused to serve under the second candidate, Yair Lapid, and analysts believe he could be persuaded to resign. Netanyahu returns to office.
From exit polls it appears that Mr. Netanyahu dismissed the challenges of Lapid, the central opposition leader and former finance minister, whose party won 16 to 18 seats, according to the exit polls, and Gideon Saar, a former interior minister, protested the party. left over the refusal of Mr. Netanyahu. Saar’s new right-wing party won five to six seats, the exit polls said, while the entire anti-Netanyahu bloc won 59 seats, two less than a majority – but without powers without Mr. Bennett.
As mnr. Netanyahu does retain his post, he is expected to force a showdown with the judiciary. For years, the Israeli right has seen the Supreme Court as an elitist, activist institution that undermines the will of the electorate. His defenders say it protects democratic norms and does his best to stay out of the political battle.
In December, Mr. Netanyahu announced that he intended to curb the influence of the court, with the call for ‘updated arrangements regarding the limits of the rule of law’ and promised that his party would ordain them as soon as it was able. Without the limitations of his former coalition partners, Mr. Netanyahu is implementing that plan.
The election was held against the backdrop of a deep political barrier, with the current cabinet so dysfunctional that it could not agree on a state budget for two consecutive years, nor the appointment of key civil servants, including the public prosecutor and the senior officials at Ministries of Justice and Finance.
The vote followed a campaign aimed at the suitability of Mr. Netanyahu himself, rather than on more existential or ideological questions such as the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or how to bridge the divide between secular and religious Israelis.
Mr Netanyahu has presented himself as the only candidate capable of deterring what many Israelis see as the threats to Iran. He also sought to distinguish himself as a statesman who cemented diplomatic relations with four Arab states and brought a leading vaccination program to Israel, which helped the country recently achieve something closer to normal life.