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Lapid concedes defeat, congratulates Netanyahu on winning Israeli election

Prime Minister Yair Lapid broke his two-day silence and called opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him for winning the elections.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid called opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu a short while ago and congratulated him on his election victory. According to Lapid’s office, the prime minister told Netanyahu he has instructed all of the associates to prepare for an orderly transfer of power. “The State of Israel is above any political consideration,” Lapid was quoted as saying. “I wish Netanyahu luck for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel.”

The Central Election Committee finished counting all the votes. Netanyahu’s religious/right-wing bloc receives 64 seats at the Knesset out of 120. The Likud preserves its status as the largest party, with 32 seats. Lapid’s Yesh Atid gets 24 Knesset seats.  

Veteran leftist Meretz Party failed to pass the Knesset-entry threshold of four seats and will remain outside Israel’s parliament. Data released by the Central Election Committee after 99.5% of the votes were counted indicated as such. The party garnered 3.14%, below the required threshold of 3.25%. It lacked less than 4,000 votes.

"This is a very difficult moment for me and for my friends in Meretz. The election results are a disaster for Meretz, a disaster for the country and, yes, also a personal disaster for me," said Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On in a video posted on Twitter.

Gal-On had left politics some four years ago but decided to return after party chair Nitzan Horowitz resigned from his position. In her video, she said she returned to politics out of this fear exactly — that Meretz would remain out of the Knesset while the extreme right will be in and increasing. "When I saw that Meretz was in danger I returned to the throes of politics, hoping to save Meretz and the entire bloc," she explained. Gal-On pointed a finger at Labor leader Merav Michaeli who refused for the two parties to merge and run on one ticket in the elections. She also said that in the past few weeks she warned time and again Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his people that they were "playing with fire." She was referring to efforts by Lapid and his party to persuade center-left supporters to vote for Yesh Atid and abandon Meretz and Labor.

The Labor party passed the Knesset-entry threshold — but with a score of five seats compared with seven in the last elections. Speaking in front of the cameras this evening, Michaeli blamed Lapid for Meretz being left out and her party hardly making it into the Knesset. She said Lapid led a campaign "that called for voting for the largest party in the bloc. This is what brought down and eliminated Meretz and almost eliminated the Labor party. Unfortunately, even if Labor and Meretz had united, it would not have prevented Netanyahu from forming the government." 

The Central Election Committee has until Nov. 10 to present to President Isaac Herzog the official election results, after which the president will summon representatives of all parties to recommend a candidate for composing the next government. After consulting with them, Herzog will task one Knesset member — most likely Netanyahu — with the mission of assembling a majority government.

Netanyahu did not wait for all the votes to be counted. Earlier today he appointed Likud senior Yariv Levin to negotiate on his behalf with the other potential coalition partners.

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