The results are in, sort of: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has likely won a fifth term in Israel’s parliamentary election Tuesday.
While there are still some 300,000 votes that remain to be counted, according to the JTA, it seems that Netanyahu has has the best chance of forming a governing majority in the Knesset and will become Israel’s longest serving prime minister.
While Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party received 35 seats in the Knesset, the same as the center-right Blue and White Party, led by Benny Gantz, Netanyahu is seen as having a better chance of forming a governing coalition. It takes 61 seats to form a majority.
Reactions to the victory have been mixed, both throughout the country and within the local Jewish community.
Among local leaders inside and out the religious community, reactions to the election were mixed.
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, said there is not much of a difference between the two leading parties.
“The majority of the country remains close to a centrist position. It’s unfortunate that because of personality differences between the parties that the government wouldn’t be a coalition of the two largest parties.”
Others interviewed for this article, say they are concerned about the implications of a Netanyahu victory on the relationship between Israel and the United States.
Susie Gelman, the board chair for the liberal Israel Policy Forum, said that Netanyahu and the Likud will likely focus on annexing the West Bank, which could have major implications for Israel’s security.
“Any form of annexation would kill the two-state solution,” Gelman said. “It would lead, at minimum, to a disruption in security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel which is vital to Israeli security. It’s no exaggeration to say this is a very serious development.”
(Gelman is a member of the owners group of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week.)
She, like others, are also concerned about how Netanyahu’s victory could affect the relationship between Israel and American Jews.
Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman, of Kol Shalom in Rockville, said he was “very upset” with the election results. “Since Netanyahu is in part responsible for the decline of the relationship [between Israel and American Jews] he will be less inclined to bridge the gap. The prime minister made many promises to create egalitarian worship space at the Kotel [among other things] that he has reneged on and lied about. This is just one way of furthering the alienation of American Jewry.”
Rabbi Charles Arian, of Kehilat Shalom in Gaithersburg, said he saw the results coming.
“For a long time, I’ve been hearing Israeli friends say that they don’t particularly like Netanyahu, but they don’t see his potential replacement as better or more qualified. And at least as far as life is concerned for Israel, things are pretty good. As long as the status quo is tolerable, people support the status quo.”
A few national organizations released statements on the election results.
Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center tweeted, “American politicians and pundits, organizational leaders and activists should recognize and appreciate that Israel just held a free, fair and hard fought election and that this democratic process yielded a result that should be respected.”
The Union for Reform Judaism, “We have deep concern that the new government will deepen the discrimination against the non-orthodox streams of Judaism, continue to undermine the democratic values and institutions of Israel, and discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel…We are especially concerned by the statements made by Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of the election calling for annexation of the West Bank Jewish settlements, a unilateral move that would make a two-state solution impossible and render the Jewish democratic State untenable.”
The left wing Jewish Voice for Peace said, “While it is a relief that some of the most extremist parties appear not to have reached the threshold to enter the Knesset, any government that is formed cannot be expected to take any steps to end the occupation or end oppression of Palestinian people.”