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Why the Israeli election results are great news for Netanyahu, in one chart

The Israeli election results are looking to be pretty good news for incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, judging by an average of three exit polls released late on Tuesday. This chart, showing the number of seats each party is projected to hold in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, demonstrates why this is looking good for Netanyahu:

netanyahu coalition exit poll average

(Johnny Harris/Vox)

The boxed-in part of the chart represents the parties that would be most likely to form a coalition with Netanyahu. In the Israeli system, the next government is formed by creating a coalition of parties who together control 61 seats or more. In other words, this shows the most plausible coalition Netanyahu could organize to form a government and stay in power. And this scenario is pretty plausible indeed.

As this shows, Netanyahu could put together a government made up mostly of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. This is ideologically not too difficult for him: the right-wing parties are his natural allies, and the ultra-Orthodox are much more comfortable with the right than the center-left on issues such as the peace process and synagogue-state relations.

There is one caveat: Netanyahu would also need Kulanu, a center-right party headed by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon. Kulanu has been critical of Likud's performance on the economy and US-Israel relations. It still appears open to joining a coalition, but it is a wild card.

By contrast, the most viable opposition, Isaac Herzog's center-left Zionist Union, would have a much tougher time forming a coalition. They'd need Kulanu as well as the other centrist party, Yesh Atid, and at least one ultra-Orthodox party — specifically Shas, the slightly larger one.

herzog hypothetical coalition chart

Arab parties are unlikely to join any coalition for ideological reasons. (Johnny Harris/Vox)

The problem for Zionist Union is that they'd likely need both Yesh Atid, which is staunchly secular, as well as one of the ultra-Orthodox parties, which despise Yesh Atid. As you can see, forming a center-left government would, based on these exit numbers, be really difficult and complex. Forming a right-wing government built around Likud wouldn't be a cinch, but it would be easier.