Expectations of a narrow victory continued well past the closure of polls in Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already delivered his victory speech. It seems to have been premature, however, for while his joint Likud-Beiteinu list has a plurality, the count from the Central Elections Committee showed a tie.
The assumption of a coalition of the far-right parties with the religious right, despite their open clashes during the campaign, no longer holds up as the 31 seats of Likud-Beiteinu, the 11 of Jewish Home and Shas, and the 7 seats of United Torah Judaism (UTJ) give that pair of blocs 60 seats… one short of the majority they need.
On the other side, the Yesh Atid Party netted 19 seats, Labor collected 15, and Tzipi Livni Party and Meretz each got 6, with Kadima getting two. That gives the center-left bloc 48 seats, actually more than the 42 that the far-right has without the religious right. 12 seats went to Arab parties, and a Center-Left-Arab coalition would also end up with 60 seats.
Both Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid are talking up grand coalitions inclusive of both sides as a possibility, but how difficult it would be for such a coalition could come together, and more importantly how easy it would be for it to fly apart, makes the post-election battle for governance of Israel likely to carry on for some time.