The polls closed in Israel just over four hours ago. At 10:00 p.m. here, most Israelis turned to their favorite stations and waited for the exit poll results.
The very earliest exit polls showed the new Blue and White Party (Kachol Lavan) in the lead with 37 seats to Netanyahu’s Likud Party with 33 seats. Over the next few hours the gap between Blue and White and Likud began narrowing. Even at the three hour mark and shortly after actual ballot counting had begun, Blue and White remained, if only slightly, in the lead.
However, the estimates for which of the two leading parties would be able to create a ruling coalition was either at a dead heat or with Likud ahead.
What this means is that it will take until at least Wednesday, at the earliest, before Israel and the rest of the world knows who will be the Prime Minister of Israel in the next Knesset. That will be decided by which of the two major parties can attract enough of the smaller parties to join their coalition. The greatest currency for attracting those smaller parties is the offer of cabinet ministries.
The other factor which determines who will enter a coalition is that several parties are unwilling to join together with other parties with which they are ideologically incompatible. Several parties have gone on the record refusing to enter a coalition with some of the other parties.
Kachol Lavan’s leader, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, gave what amounted to a victory speech and the Kachol Lavan headquarters was celebrating, it is still way too early to proclaim victory for either Kachol Lavan or Likud.
Netanyahu also gave what sounded like a victory speech. He was predicting a right-wing government for the next Knesset, and that would not be possible without including the Likud party.
Although no one seems to have called them out for it, within the past few days several of the Democrat Party contenders for U.S. President attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Former Texas Representative Robert “Beto” O’Roarke referred to Netanyahu as a “racist” who “will make peace in the long term impossible.”
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeig said that “[s]upporting Israel does not have to mean agreeing with Netanyahu’s politics. I don’t.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said on NBC that he “hopes Netanyahu loses” the election.
As Israel enters the wee hours of the morning after its election and actual results still too close to call, most pundits are predicting that it is Netanyahu who will be successful in cobbling together the coalition which will control the next Knesset. That means another round of Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister.