In a critical election during a time of war and near-war in much of the Middle East, The Jerusalem Post is reporting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday afternoon that elections show the country wants him to continue to lead, but repeated his pledge to build the widest coalition possible.
Netanyahu told reporters that the coalition he will put together will deal with greater equality in carrying the military burden, institute cheaper housing and government reform.
Netanyahu said that he agreed with his No. 2, Avigdor Liberman, that the coalition negotiations would deal with those issues, alongside the diplomatic/security issues.
Having secured enough votes in Tuesday’s elections to head the next government, Netanyahu at once embarked on late night outreach to the leaders of the parties he is eyeing as future coalition partners. In a post-midnight flurry, he called Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, Aryeh Deri and Eli Yishai of Shas, and Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism.
The calls came after Netanyahu made a point of mentioning Lapid in his victory speech at the Likud headquarters on Tuesday night. Likud Beytenu performed less well than even the damning opinion polls had suggested, shrinking from 42 seats in the last Knesset to just 31 in the next.
Conversely, Yesh Atid exceeded expectations, pulling in 19 seats to become the second largest party. Labor trailed third with 15 seats. Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party also underperformed on Tuesday night, scoring 11 seats as opposed to the 14 or 15 predicted by many polls.