Labor lost out in a big way. The winners are far less certain. Kadima appears to have won 28 seats while Likud won 27 seats. Kadima is a center right party, while Likud is a right wing party. Those figures could still change as voting tallies are confirmed, but I expect this to be the final breakdown.
The far right wing Israel Beiteinu won what appears to be 15 seats. The religious party Shas won 11 seats. Labor won 13 seats. If anything, Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party siphoned off just enough votes to keep Likud from having the plurality to overtake Kadima.
It takes 60 seats to form a government.
The media is trying to portray this as some kind of inconclusive election, but that shows a stunning lack of knowledge about the Israeli political system.
Inconclusive election results sent Israel into political limbo Wednesday with both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu claiming victory and leaving the kingmaker role to a rising political hawk with an anti-Arab platform.This is absolutely clueless drivel from the AP.
Livni's Kadima Party won 28 seats, just one more than Netanyahu's Likud, in Tuesday's election for the 120-member parliament, according to nearly complete results. Both held victory rallies, but without a clear majority neither can govern alone. Hard-line parties won a majority of the votes, meaning that Netanyahu has more natural allies and a better chance of forming a coalition.
The results set the stage for what could be weeks of coalition negotiations. The first meetings began Wednesday, with Netanyahu meeting the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas faction and Livni meeting Avigdor Lieberman, whose ultranationalist party received 15 seats and emerged as the third-largest force in parliament.
Israel always has coalition governments and they require weeks of negotiations to form the government. In fact, as each government functions, parties that make up the coalition routinely threaten to leave the coalition in order to demand and receive additional perks, concessions, from the primary party in charge.
None of this is new. A history lesson would show that Israel has required coalition governments to function since its inception in 1948. Israel's President will choose a Member of the Knesset to form the government, and deadlines are provided by statute.
What is new is that this election marked a repudiation of Labor altogether, but it showed that Kadima is still preferred despite the corruption surrounding outgoing Prime Minister Olmert and the failures of the Olmert government, including Foreign Minister Livni, to deal with the terror threat from Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
The qualms over Livni and Kadima appear to be least felt in the one area of Israel where the rockets and land for peace is least likely to be felt - Tel Aviv. That's where Kadima won the election. Likud won in Jerusalem and had strong showings elsewhere in the country, including in and around Israel's borders with Gaza.
Carl in Jerusalem has speculation on who Bibi might choose to fill out his government. That's assuming that Israel's President Shimon Peres (formerly of Labor) chooses Netanyahu over Kadima's Livni. The US would likely put pressure on Peres to choose Livni over the right wing Netanyahu, but the ultimate decision rests with Peres, who's seen his dreams of peace shattered by the incessant war launched by the terrorists in the face of every Israeli concession, including the Gaza unilateral withdrawal. Israel's Knesset is made up of more right-leaning parties than left (via Israellycool), and they're recommending Netanyahu get first crack at forming the government.
If Bibi gets first dibs, Kadima has also lost out, although it may still end up as part of the coalition government. Any party trying to cobble together a coalition government must arrive at the magic number of 60 to govern. Let the games begin.