The New Right party appeared just short of crossing the election threshold to enter the Knesset, according to updated results released early Thursday, with several thousand ballots still to be counted.
The Central Elections Committee was overnight Wednesday-Thursday counting the final 265,000 ballots from soldiers, diplomats, medical staff and patients in hospitals, prisoners and disabled people (3,940 special stations were accessible to voters with disabilities), representing about six percent of the total number of ballots cast in the election.
After the regular votes were counted, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party narrowly failed to enter the Knesset, garnering just 3.14% of the vote, some 4,300 votes under the 3.25% electoral threshold.
According to the update released at 6:28 a.m. on Thursday, New Right had crept up to 3.22%, just 0.03% short of its target that would lift it from no seats to four seats.
The Central Elections Committee was unavailable to comment on the number of votes remaining to be counted.
Due to a bug in the Central Elections Committee website, the data appeared at first to indicate that New Right was just above the threshold with 3.26%, but officials said that was a mistake.
Counting was due to end later Thursday morning, the committee said in a statement.
The tally of the last batch of votes could also theoretically imperil Arab party Ra’am-Balad, which had 3.45%, just 8,400 votes over the threshold, but it appeared to be safe. According to the update it had slipped to 3.38%, but was still above the cutoff mark.
The absentee votes also seemed to help buoy other parties hovering just above the threshold, boosting Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu (from 3.56% to 3.59%), Meretz (3.64% to 3.68%) and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (3.66% to 3.76%).
Additionally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party (26.83%) was ahead of its centrist rival, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction (26.47%) by a mere 15,205 votes.
The New Right said it was confident that it would pass the electoral threshold after the final votes were tallied, and move from zero to four seats. If so, Blue and White would likely lose two seats, and United Torah Judaism and the Union of Right-Wing parties would likely lose one seat each.
Bennett himself said in a statement to reporters Wednesday morning: “All my life I gave everything I could for this good nation. I’ve always been a soldier of the state — in [elite IDF unit] Sayeret Matkal, as a high-tech entrepreneur, as education minister and in the security cabinet during Operation Protective Edge [in Gaza in 2014].
“Now, the soldiers will decide where I will continue to fight for them.”
Netanyahu clinched a clear electoral victory, with Likud tied with Blue and White at 35 in terms of Knesset seats, but the right-wing bloc had a handy lead and Netanyahu had a clear path to forming a governing coalition. Blue and White conceded defeat on Wednesday evening.
Likud snagged the party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.