Netanyahu Wins, But Left Makes Unexpected Gains

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TEL AVIV, Israel -- More Israelis went to the polls Tuesday than in more than a decade. They voted for a change in the government, but it's not the change most people anticipated.

Israeli TV channels released their exit polls at 10 p.m. local time. As expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's combined Likud-Beiteinu party received the most seats. But center-left parties received many more seats than anticipated.

How will the election impact U.S.-Israeli relations? David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh and author of the book The Islamic Tsunami, has more, on CBN Newswatch, Jan. 23.

The emergence of Yair Lapid and his center-left party will have a major impact on how Netanyahu will form the next Israeli government. It also says a lot about the direction many Israelis want to go.

"That's the big news. It's very much a center, centrist picture," Israeli political analyst David Benjamin told CBN News. "That's what coming out here. That's what the Israeli electorate is looking like."

Yet Israelis also gave a significant number of seats to Naftali Bennett's party, a center-right party committed to reviving Jewish values and keeping Israeli control over the biblical land of Israel.

"One last word for the international press," Bennett told his supporters at the party's campaign headquarters. "A Jewish spring is sweeping Israel. We have partners. We have neighbors. We'll always speak the truth and we'll always be strong in our country. We welcome any discussions with anyone. But we're here to stay."

The results could affect U.S.-Israeli relations; yet on the Iranian nuclear issue, many see a united front.

"On the Iranian issue, there's very little difference between the prime minister and parties to his immediate right and the prime minister and parties to his immediate left," Israeli pollster Stephen Miller told CBN News. "So when it comes to security issues, foreign relations -- certainly the Iranian threat -- you're not likely to see any change." 

The results mean Netanyahu will likely remain prime minister and form the next government, though he goes to negotiations weaker.

"A strong Lapid will help him, paradoxically, to establish a more stable and more moderate coalition," Bar-Ilan University Prof. Eytan Gilboa said.

Others are uncertain what the next Israeli government will look like and how long it will last. Some anticipated Israelis might be going to the polls again in the not-too-distant future.


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