At midnight tonight EST, Israelis begin casting their ballots for the next Knesset (parliament). The Likud Party’s wide lead of recent weeks has narrowed considerably (on the back of a major surge in the popularity of Yisrael Beiteinu), but leader Benjamin Netanyahu remains confident of winning. The problem is, rival Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party seems just as confident.
Though the two parties remain separated by only a handful of seats, their own parties’ results may have far less to do with which gets first crack at forming the next coalition than the bargaining among the assorted lesser parties and their relative strengths therein.
Israeli President Shimon Peres will hold talks with all the parties holding seats in the next Knesset, and will then select the party he feels has the best shot at forming the next government successfully. It seemed a sure bet this would be Likud, but the recent falling out between likely coalition partners Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas may have provided Kadima the opportunity they need to get another crack at governing.
After a brief post-war campaign season that saw the fall of one major party (Labor) and the rise of another (Yisrael Beiteinu), failed attempts to ban the major Arab political parties and talk of a unity government comprising all the Zionist parties, the results of the election remain in doubt, and will likely be the major story of the coming days.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur has excellent in-depth profiles of the leaders of the four highest polling parties: