Israeli election 'deadlock' as Netanyahu fails to secure majority

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing another hung election preliminary results from Tuesday's election show.

With close to 90% of votes counted by Wednesday evening, the prime minister’s Likud party was clearly leading with about 30 seats. While the opposition's Yair Lapid, had roughly 18.

Current predictions, which could change, indicate that for Netanyahu to succeed, he may need to 'draw outside the lines' by bringing together hardliners on the right and the United Arab List, a small Islamist party known in Hebrew as Ra’am. 

Ra'am split from the Joint List earlier this year in part because Ra'am's leader Mansour Abbas said he was open to working with Mr Netanyahu to address the needs of Israel's Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of the population.

Speaking in the early hours of Wednesday in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he intended to contact parliamentarians in an attempt to build a “stable” government.

“I stretch out my hand to all [members of the Knesset] who believe in this path; I don’t rule anybody out. I expect all who believe in our principles to act in a similar fashion.”

The latest election is crucial as it will determine who is in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the region, a state which the US considers one of its most important allies.

The next government will also shape relations with the Palestinians and Arab countries.

Netanyahu opposes a fully fledged independent state Palestinians are looking for in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, and supports Jewish settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

A centrist or centre-left government would be more likely to try to revive failed negotiations with the Palestinians and consider territorial concessions in return for peace.

The outcome could also affect Mr Netanyahu's trial on corruption charges, which is due to resume in two weeks' time. Analysts suggest a right-wing government could attempt to block the trial from proceeding. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Yohanan Plesner, head of the Israel Democracy Institute thinktank, said the results showed voters were split “right down the middle with respect to the main question that divides Israeli politics, which is pro and against Mr Netanyahu”.

He added that it is a period of uncertainty, a deadlock and paralysis is expected to accompany us for the foreseeable future.