Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu Set To Form Government, India-Israel Ties Set For Upward Trajectory

Israel's Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu accorded the welcome to PM Narendra Modi during his 2017 visit to Israel reserved only for US President and the Pope.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israel's PM-elect Benjamin Netanyahu

Veteran Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu is set to form government in Israel as his coalition has secured 64 out of 120 parliamentary seats.

Netanyahu is the longest-serving Israeli prime minister who has held the office twice earlier, first during 1996–99 and then during 2009–21.

Though Netanyahu is set to form the government, he has not secured a majority government, as it's his coalition that has secured the majority and not his party. His Likud Party has secured only 32 seats. 

Incumbent Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday conceded defeat and congratulated Netanyahu on winning the elections. 

Israeli election results in numbers

The Israeli parliament, called Knesset, has 120 seats. 

Netanyahu-led coalition has secured 64 of the 120 seats. 

Netanyahu's Likud Party has secured 32 seats and test of the 32 seats are secured by coalition partners. Lapid's Yesh Atid's party got 24 seats.

The far-right Religious Zionism party won 14 seats becoming the third largest party. Netanyahu's other likely coalition partners, Shas and United Torah Judaism won 11 and seven seats respectively, bringing the bloc's total count to 64. 

Defence Minister Benny Gantz's National Unity won 12 seats and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman got six seats.

Arab-majority parties Hadash-Ta'al and United Arab List each got five seats.

Labour, once a ruling party in Israel, got just over the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold winning four seats.

Left-wing party Meretz was just a few thousand votes short of making it into the next Knesset, ending a three-decade-long era of political representation for it since its formulation in 1992.

State of Israel above everything: Lapid

Lapid on Thursday conceded defeat in the elections and congratulated Netanyahu, moving towards a smooth transfer of power "for the sake of people of Israël and the State of Israel".

Lapid had been preparing his ministers and team the whole of Thursday to ensure a smooth and orderly handover of reigns.

He said, "The State of Israel is above any political consideration. I wish Netanyahu luck for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel."

Israel's years of political uncertainty

This is fifth general election Israel has held in less than four years. 

Elections had to be held repeatedly as no single party formed a majority and stable coalitions could not be worked out. The ideologically diverse coalition built by incumbent Prime Minister Lapid and former PM Naftali Bennet collapsed earlier this year when partners walked out and suspended cooperation. 

The crisis picked up pace when Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in 2019. He was later ousted by an unprecedented coalition of parties whose only common goal was to see his ouster. 

Netanyahu's comeback and India-Israel ties

Netanyahu is considered to be a strong advocate of a closer India-Israel relationship and is believed to have a personal friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With Netanyahu's comeback, India-Israel strategic ties are likely to see an upward trajectory, and even witness an increased hype around it.

Modi in 2017 became the first Indian prime minister to Israel. The ‘chemistry’ between the two leaders became the subject of intense discussion during the visit. Netanyahu accompanied Modi 'like a shadow' during the visit and extended to him the welcome reserved for the US President and the Pope. The famous picture of the two leaders at the Olga beach, standing facing each other barefoot, had the social media buzzing with talks of ‘bromance’.

India and Israel elevated their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership during Modi's visit to Israel. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has focused on expanding knowledge-based partnership, which includes collaboration in innovation and research, including boosting the 'Make in India' initiative.

Netanyahu used his closeness with world leaders, including Modi, as an asset during his campaign to show that others could not match his standing and secure Israel’s interests like him at the international stage.

has always demonstrated a soft corner for India with him and his wife, Sara, being declared Indian food lovers. The two also made sure to participate in this year’s August 15 celebrations hosted by the Indian embassy, despite being in the middle of an intense election campaign.

Netanyahu also tried to visit India a few times more during the build up to his earlier campaigns but the visits got called off to address other urgent issues.

India’s relations with Israel have remained steady and strong even with the incumbent leadership, showing distinct signs of further progress with I2U2 (India, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates) and discussions around a Free Trade Agreement, but it has not matched the heightened hype so visible with Netanyahu in power.

(With PTI inputs)