Final Israeli election results show that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party secured 36 seats, while the Blue and White party netted just 33. However, the Netanyahu bloc—which includes the Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Yamina parties—wound up with only 58 seats and fell short of reaching a majority. The Likud demanded a recount of Monday’s election and filed a lawsuit on Thursday that intends to force a rechecking of all polling station protocols. While the centrist Blue and White, the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu, the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz, and the predominantly Arab Joint List parties—combined—have a parliamentary majority with 62 seats, it is considered highly unlikely they will coalesce to form a government.
One election report suggests Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Benny Gantz be tasked with forming a government. This report was presented on the same day Lieberman announced that his party would support legislation prohibiting a member of Knesset facing indictment from forming a government, as well as limiting the tenure of any prime minister to two terms. The legislation is clearly aimed at Netanyahu, who has served four terms as prime minister and has been charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three criminal cases, all of which are slated to begin sometime in March.
As of Friday, the Israel Health Ministry has confirmed 21 cases of COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus. Between 50,000 and 80,000 Israelis are currently reported to be in self-quarantine. Foreigners from a number of European and Asian countries have or will be banned from entering the country. Large events, such as concerts and sporting matches, have also been canceled due to a series of expanding directives issued by the Health Ministry.
The Israel Police announced Thursday that it had begun a crackdown on citizens who are violating quarantine restrictions. Through a statement, the police said they had opened eight criminal investigations against Israelis who have either violated home quarantine rules or misled Health Ministry inspectors. According to some reports, those who violate the state directives could face up to seven years in prison. Israel was the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel—entirely because of the outbreak. On the same day of the police announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting to deal with the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak. Netanyahu announced that a government emergency fund would be created to help companies that have been hurt by the spiraling health crisis.
Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC
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