Tel Aviv — His party shrunk, his opponents grew and his challengers multiplied.
But with the results in, it seems Benjamin Netanyahu survived the Knesset elections on Jan. 22 to serve another term as prime minister.
Netanyahu faces a bumpy road ahead. His Likud party, together with the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, fell to 31 seats in the voting from its current representation of 42.
The biggest surprise of the election was the ascendance of former TV personality Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party. Founded just a year ago, Yesh Atid won 18 seats on a platform of national service and pro-middle class economic reform. Likud’s traditional rival, the center-left Labor, grew to 17 from eight seats promoting progressive economic policy.
And another political newcomer, Naftali Bennett, is likely to push Netanyahu to the right on security issues. His Jewish Home party, a successor to the National Religious Party, quadrupled its representation from three to 12 seats.
Together with the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party and the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism, the right-wing Knesset bloc will hold 62 of the Knesset’s 120 seats – a slim majority.
That’s anything but a mandate for Netanyahu, who campaigned on the slogan “A strong prime minister, a strong Israel.” Instead of being able to lead a new coalition with a large party behind him, Netanyahu will have to negotiate with rivals and forge compromises with opposing camps.
Judging from the successes of Yesh Atid, Labor and Jewish Home, Israelis cast a resounding vote for progressive economic reform and new leaders in their parliament.