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No clear winner in Israeli election

Caption for the image: An Israeli votes at a polling place in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 9, 2019. (Photo: NYTimes)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure a solid parliamentary majority in Israel’s election but a potential deal with a rival right-wing politician could make him the eventual winner, TV exit polls showed.اضافة اعلان

After a campaign in which he showcased Israel’s world-beating COVID-19 vaccination rollout, Netanyahu’s political survival appeared to rest with Naftali Bennett, a former defense minister and leader of the far-right Yamina party.

Israel’s center-left made a better showing than expected, according to the polls, but it also came up short of a 61-seat majority in the 120-member parliament.

Bennett has said he would not serve under the center-left group’s most likely leader, Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party.

Bennett, a former Netanyahu aide who has long sought to replace him at the helm, remained noncommittal about his coalition intentions immediately after polling stations closed.

“I will do only what is good for the state of Israel,” Bennett was quoted as saying by a spokesman.

Netanyahu, 71, had campaigned on his leadership credentials based on a program that has enabled nearly 50 percent of Israelis to receive two vaccine shots already.

Corruption charges against him, in an ongoing trial, have weighed on his popularity, resulting in Israel’s fourth election in two years. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The dominant political figure of his generation, Netanyahu, has been in power continuously since 2009. But the Israeli electorate is deeply polarized, with supporters hailing him as “King Bibi” and opponents holding up placards calling him “Crime Minister”.

Israel’s swift vaccine rollout allowed it to reopen much of its economy before the election, and Netanyahu had promised voters and businesses more cash stipends and millions more doses of vaccine.