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Israel's Elections Are Over but the Battle for Who Will Lead Has Only Begun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with Cabinet Ministers, Screen Capture, AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with Cabinet Ministers, Screen Capture, AP

JERUSALEM, Israel - With nearly all the votes counted, Israel began the next phase of forming a new government on Sunday, but it remains unclear who will be Israel’s next prime minister.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with each party that won seats in the election.  He wanted their recommendation on whether Benny Gantz of the Blue and White or Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud should form the next government before making his decision.

Benjamin Netanyahu received one more recommendation than Benny Gantz and might get the first chance to form a government. 

After ten members of the Arab Joint List recommended Gantz, Netanyahu called on his opponent for a unity government. 

But the way ahead for either Netanyahu or Gantz is not easy and it's the numbers that tell the challenging story. 

Of the 120 seats in Israel’s Knesset, a leader needs 61 of those seats to form a government.  There are 55 seats on the right aligned with Netanyahu’s Likud. On the left, Gantz’s Blue and White has 44, but ten members of the Joint List of Arab parties could support Blue and White in a minority coalition.  That adds up to 54 seats, still short of the 61 “magic number. “

That’s why Avigdor Lieberman is described as a potential kingmaker. His Israel Beiteinu party holds 8 seats and he remains uncommitted. 

Regardless of who is chosen, it may take weeks to get a new government and it's even possible Israelis could go to the polls for a third time. 

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