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Here's the breakdown on Israel's election results — it's looking great for Netanyahu

Netanyahu beams to supporters at party election headquarters after the results.
Netanyahu beams to supporters at party election headquarters after the results.
Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  1. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to win another term in office. With almost all votes counted from Tuesday's election, his right-wing Likud Party is on track to get 30 seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and challenger Isaac Herzog's center-left Zionist Union is expected to get 24.
  2. You need at least 61 out of the Knesset's total 120 seats to form a government, so Likud still needs to form a coalition with smaller parties. But its likely coalition partners on the right outperformed the left. This, along with Likud's extra seats, puts Netanyahu in a very strong position to form Israel's next government and potentially become the country's longest-serving prime minister.
  3. Likud has said it "plans to immediately begin forming a government in order to complete the task within two to three weeks."

With 99 percent of votes counted, this is how things stand:

election results

Vox/Joe Posner

Why the smaller parties' results favor Likud

Since neither of the biggest parties, Likud or the Zionist Union, command overwhelming support, a coalition government is inevitable in Israel, and that means the results of the smaller parties matters hugely. Breaking down the numbers shows that even though some of the smaller parties on the right underperformed, the right-leaning bloc as a whole did well, leaving Netanyahu in prime position.

1) The right: Jewish Home, a religious and ultra-nationalist party staunchly opposed to a Palestinian state, has won eight seats. Netanyahu has personal problems with Jewish Home's charismatic leader Naftali Bennett, but their parties are natural allies. This is a disaster for Jewish Home but great for Likud — winning nearly four times as many seats as Jewish Home cements Likud's status as the unquestioned leader of the right, which Jewish Home had previously threatened.

Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular nationalist party largely supported by Russian immigrants, has six seats. Yahad, a hardline religious party, failed to win the 3.5 percent of the vote minimum necessary to get seated in the Knesset.

2) The left: Beyond the Zionist Union, there's really only one significant identifiably left-wing party. That's Meretz, long the majority Jewish party most in favor of a peace deal with the Palestinians, which has won four seats. Compare that with the 14 total seats polling to go to the right-leaning parties listed just above. That's Likud's key advantage in forming a coalition — it has stronger external allies. The Zionist Union hoped to counteract that by outperforming Likud one on one. They not only failed to do that, but actually lost by a substantial margin. Hence Likud's commanding victory.

3) The ultra-Orthodox parties: The two big ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, get six and seven seats respectively. The ultra-Orthodox parties are more naturally aligned with the right, though they could theoretically have been wooed by Herzog with the right concessions on economic and synagogue-state issues.

If Likud secures the support of both the ultra-Orthodox parties and the two parties on the right, this still only brings him to 57, four short of the magic number 61. Which means Netanyahu's efforts to win backing from the center will be absolutely key.

4) The crucial center: There are two centrist parties focused principally on the economy and domestic issues: Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, which has won 11 seats, and Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu on 10 seats. Lapid is unlikely to join a new Likud government — he was in Netanyahu's last Cabinet, but his disagreements with the prime minister collapsed the coalition and forced these elections.

It's Kahlon's 10 seats that could really help clinch a new government for Netanyahu. His new party is often identified as center-right, but he sounds a lot like Labor on the economy. While Kahlon could still mess with the process, the strong Likud victory makes it likely that Kulanu will join Netanyahu's government, with Kahlon in control of the Finance Ministry.