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israeli election results 2021

YAIR LAPID HAD A BIG NIGHT, BUT WILL IT BE ENOUGH?

The opposition leader is on track to win 17 or 18 seats – the largest faction after Netanyahu's Likud – but can he translate that into becoming prime minister? It's not going to be easy

Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid Party delivers a speech after the release of first voting results in the Israeli general elections, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 24, 2021. (Photo: Gili Yaari /Flash90)

JERUSALEM — Besides Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his center-right Likud party, no one got more votes on Tuesday than Yair Lapid and his centrist Yesh Atid party.

Netanyahu is on track to win 30 seats or so.

Lapid will likely win 17 or 18 seats.

That represents a big night for Lapid – huge, actually.

No other party is even close.

Lapid is currently the opposition leader in the Knesset – the success of his campaign ought to solidify that position.

The question is whether Lapid can translate his success into actually becoming prime minister if Netanyahu cannot form a government.

At the moment, that's not impossible, but it is certainly not going to be easy.

Here's why.

The anti-Netanyahu camp consists of 50 seats, including:

* Yesh Atid - 17 seats

* Blue & White (Benny Gantz) - 8 seats

* Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman) - 7 seats

* Labor (Merav Michaeli) - 7 seats

* New Hope (Gideon Sa'ar) - 6 seats

* Meretz (Nitzan Horowitz) - 5 seats

Now, Naftali Bennett and his Yamina party are on track to win 7 seats.

That would theoretically give the anti-Netanyahu camp 57 seats, if Bennett is serious about his call to "fire Israel's CEO" – Netanyahu – for whom he used to serve as chief of staff before a major falling out and starting his own political party.

If the "anti-camp" can persuade Mansour Abbas and his Arab Ra'am party (5 seats) to join them, they would have 62 seats – a governing majority.

But Bennett has publicly vowed not to serve in a government led by Lapid.

How would he break this vow without potentially cratering his political support – or setting into motion defections from Yamina to Netanyahu and the Likud camp?

And even if Bennett is open to breaking his pledge, would he really serve in a government with an Islamist party?

This is Lapid's great challenge.

In so many ways, he is in a great political position. But does he have the skills to cobble together a coalition of such disparate factions?

Yesh Atid in Hebrew means "There Is A Future."

The problem for Lapid is that despite a big night, it is by no means clear there is an immediate future that involves him becoming prime minister.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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