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For its part, Labor looks destined to lead the Knesset’s opposition; its chairwoman, Shelly Yachimovich, has vowed not to join a Netanyahu coalition. Tzipi Livni’s new Hatnua party, which won just six seats, is likely to stay in the opposition, too.
The election represented a major defeat for Livni, who in the last election led the Kadima party to 28 seats – more than any other party. This time, the eviscerated Kadima failed to win even a single seat.
Hatnua’s poor showing also suggested how little of the election was about negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni made much of the issue during the campaign, but it clearly failed to resonate with voters. Hatnua’s six seats equaled the showing of Meretz, the solidly left-wing party. By contrast, Labor, traditionally a promoter of peace talks, barely raised the issue in the campaign. Instead it focused on socioeconomic issues and made significant Knesset gains.
With Election Day over, the coalition building begins: To win another term as prime minister, Netanyahu now must cobble together an alliance of at least 61 Knesset members to form Israel’s next government. Who he chooses – and who agrees to join him – will determine a great deal about the course charted in the years to come by the Israeli government.
ELECTION RESULTS (according to exit polling):
Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu: 31 Yesh Atid: 18 Labor: 17 Shas: 13 Jewish Home: 12 Meretz: 6 United Torah Judaism: 6 Hatnua: 6 Hadash: 5 Raam: 4 Balad: 2