After Israel's fourth general election in under two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will not step down, despite another deadlock. None of the Israeli parties have won enough seats in the Knesset to form a government on their own.
However, Netanyahu's Likud has won the largest number of seats, making it the biggest party in parliament, and he will probably be asked to form a government. Even though he has been indicted on corruption and fraud charges, he insists that he will remain in power and lead another coalition.
Initial suggestions in Israeli media based on their own surveys and several exit polls are that Likud will win 31 to 33 seats. When added to the other right-wing parties which are ready to stand alongside Netanyahu, he will command 61 Knesset seats, with the crumbling centre and left parties having 59.
Unlike previous occasions, Netanyahu did not claim victory after the exit polls and media surveys. He instead hailed the "clear majority" of the Likud and pleaded to the rival parties to partner with him in order to form a stable coalition government which would be able to solve the crises facing Israel and its citizens.
"Citizens of Israel — thank you!" Ynet News reported Netanyahu as writing in Hebrew on Twitter. "You have bestowed a huge victory on the right-wing and the Likud under my leadership. The Likud is larger than the next party by a massive margin."
Netanyahu is clearly putting all the corruption charges behind him and is going steadily towards the formation of a new government. He is reminding people of the achievements of his outgoing government and stressing that the Likud is the best party in government and he is the best leader to solve Israel's economic, security, and other problems.
"It is obvious," he tweeted, "that a clear majority of Israelis are right-wing and they want a strong and stable right-wing government that will protect the economy of Israel, the security of Israel, and the land of Israel. This is what we will do. We love you!"
Although surprises were expected in this election, the major surprise is that all of the Israeli factions were affected by political instability except the Likud. The defection of senior Likud official Gideon Saar was expected to split the vote. However, the party remained strong and could be compensated for losing Saar's supporters by attracting voters from other parties.
Many Israelis believe that it is Netanyahu who holds the Likud and its votes together. Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy told me that Netanyahu got the most votes in this election despite his many failures on major issues because he is "a very talented politician."
Journalist Baruch Yedid was not surprised by Netanyahu's victory. "Netanyahu is perceived as a strong leader with a political security concept and much better management abilities than his competitors [in the right wing]," he told me.
Yedid also referred to the fragmentation of the left. "The multiplicity of [left wing] parties also leads voters in Israel to vote for one large party from the right." In this way, he pointed out, Israeli voters are giving Netanyahu protection from prosecution.
Netanyahu is a proud man, but he has the people's support. His opponents have, yet again, been unable to unseat him through the ballot box. Quite the reverse, in fact. He seems to be stronger than ever, and far from ready to step down, despite another election deadlock.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.