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Israel

Opinion: No clear direction in Israel

Election results in Israel came as no surprise: Israel's right-wing and center-left bloc ended up with an equal share of the vote. Israel now has to decide where it wants to go next, says DW's Bettina Marx.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed his luck, but didn't succeed in the end. He did not manage to gather enough support for his right-wing bloc in snap elections. The joint list of Netanyahu's Likud and Yisrael Beitenu faction only managed to get 31 seats, or 11 fewer than in the last election in 2009. His right-wing bloc - with the new far-right party, Jewish Home, and two ultra-Orthodox parties - accounts for a total of 60 of the Knesset's 120 parliamentary seats.

But the center-left bloc will not be able to make a call for political change. Without Arabic parties, the bloc secured some 30 seats in elections. The center-left Labour Party led by Shelly Yachimovich and the movement headed by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni both failed to live up to expectations. 

The centrist Kadima party - the biggest faction after 2009 elections, likely only managed to get two seats.

Flamboyant winner: Yair Lapid

This elections' clear winner is a man who doesn't want to belong to any of the political blocs: Former TV host Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party - which is Hebrew for "There is a future". Just one year after it was created, the party managed to secure 19 seats and emerged as the second strongest faction in the Knesset.

But Lapid's election success sheds light on Israel's dilemma: No one knows what the son to famous parents, the smooth and good-looking successful journalist, entertainer, crime author and jack of all trades really stands for.   

It would come as no surprise if he could not answer this question himself. He refused to explain his take on political issues during the election campaign. He said he does not consider himself to be left or right. He would push for social justice, he said he is pro-business and against corruption. And he would set out to overcome the antiquated way of political visions.

His new party completely revolves around him, the populist millionaire. None of the other politicians on Lapid's list, who were handpicked by him, are as well-known by the Israeli public. 

Coalition partners to choose from

Lapid will be the kingmaker: He can decide to join a big right-wing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu, or push for a secular coalition with Likud and the Labour Party. This would be the first elected government in Israel's history that does not include religious or ultra-Orthodox parties.

And this would indeed be a surprise. But even such a coalition cannot solve the biggest problem of the country: resolving the Middle East conflict. During the election campaign, not one of the big Israeli parties called for putting an end to Israel's settlement policy and for solving the Palestinian issue.

But as long as politicians refuse to tackle this problem, elections in Israel will not yield a surprising result - no matter what kinds of new politicians emerge and what kind of new parties make it into the Knesset. Israel has to decide on its direction. But so far, not one of the prominent politicians is ready to make the call.

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