Based on the exit polls (and there could be minor shifts in the final results), it appears, unfortunately, that Bibi Netanyahu will remain prime minister of Israel. But not much is clear beyond that.
According to an exit poll average, the rightwing and religious parties have won a bare majority of 61 seats in the Knesset, while the center-left, leftwing and mostly-Arab parties have won 59.
Among the surprises:
–The supposed masterstroke of combining Netanyahu’s Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu turned out to be a bust, as they are projected to win only 31 seats. This is down from the 42 seats combined they held as separate parties.
–Yair Lapid’s “centrist” out-of-nowhere party Yesh Atid (I’m still not clear what they stand for) appears to have come in second with 19 seats, just ahead of Labor’s 17.
–The leftwing Meretz may have more than doubled its representation, from 3 to 7.
The far-right Habayit Hayehudi is expected to win 12 seats– which would keep Jeremy “I was only joking” Gimpel out of the Knesset.
Will Netanyahu try to build a razor-thin majority on the right, or will he reach out to Lapid (who has indicated a willingness to be in a coalition with Likud Beiteinu)? If the latter, what is Bibi prepared to offer and what is Lapid prepared to accept? Lapid has said he won’t be a fig leaf for a rightwing government.
Instant analysis welcome.