UPDATED: Here’s the final vote tally. Does Netanyahu’s severely weakened political standing mean he’s less likely to hit Iran in 2013?

UPDATE ON THURSDAY: After counting additional ballots, the Israeli government issued final numbers. “The nationalist Jewish Home party has risen to become the fourth-largest Knesset faction, with 12 seats, after officials finished counting the votes of soldiers and others Thursday afternoon,” reports the Times of Israel. “The party had been predicted to take 11 seats before the last votes were counted. Kadima, which had stood on the edge of falling out of the Knesset, just squeezed over the entrance threshold after the 240,000 last votes were counted, finishing with 2.09% of the vote and ensuring places in the Knesset for party head MK Shaul Mofaz and MK Israel Hasson.”

  • Likud-Beytenu (31 seats) received 880,972 ballots, 23.32% of the general vote.
  • Yesh Atid (19): 541,033 (14.32%)
  • Labor Party (15): 430,305 (11.39%)
  • Jewish Home (12): 344,028 (9.11%)
  • Shas (11): 330,359 (8.74%)
  • United Torah Judaism (7): 195,577 (5.18%)
  • Hatnua (6): 188,425 (4.99%)
  • Meretz (6): 171,660 (4.54%)
  • United Arab List (4): 137,983 (3.65%)
  • Hadash (4): 113,336 (3.00%)
  • Balad (3): 96,788 (2.56%)
  • Kadima (2): 79,064 (2.09%)

ORIGINAL POST: Israelis have voted and with the final numbers in, two things are clear: 1) Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu party is far and away the largest party; but, 2) Netanyahu is no longer “King Bibi” — he is severely politically weakened and this has implications for Israeli domestic policy, but even more for its foreign policy.

Some analysts, for example, believe an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran in 2013 is now highly unlikely, if not impossible. “The chance that Netanyahu will feel strong enough to order an Israeli military strike on Iran is now nearly zero,” concludes Yossi Melman, a prominent Israeli journalist and national security analyst. My view is that it’s too early to draw that conclusion, but the question is an interesting one. There will also be significant new left-wing political pressure (along with intense pressure from the reelected Obama administration) for Netanyahu to make sweeping concessions to the Palestinians and divide the Land of Israel.

How will Netanyahu handle such pressures? I’ll discuss these and similar issues tonight in the event I’m speaking at in San Diego. Please join us in person or for the webcast (details here).

Likud’s political fusion the Israel Beitenu party should have netted 42 seats or more. In the aftermath of the indictment of Beitenu’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, the joint-ticked won only 31 seats. Netanyahu received a humbling blow. He said Tuesday night that he will seek a broad national coalition of parties from the right to the left to join his government, but the coalition-building negotiations are going to be interesting at best. Let’s be praying for Netanyahu, his advisors, and for each of the leaders of the 19th Knesset. Above all, Israel needs to look to the Lord for His wisdom during the immense challenges ahead.

“The Central Election Committee released the final results of the 2013 general election in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” reports Ynet News. “The joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket was able to secure 31 Knesset seats, a significant drop from pre-election polls that predicted the ruling party and its ally would win 42 mandates. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a victory speech shortly after midnight, saying: ‘I’m proud to be your prime minister. I thank you for giving me a chance, for the third time, to lead the State of Israel. It is a great privilege and a great responsibility,’ he said. Tuesday’s true victor was, however, journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid, whose party, Yesh Atid, was able to win 19 mandates; cementing its status as the second-largest party in the Knesset. Labor was also able to rehabilitate its position in the House, winning 15 seats and becoming the Knesset’s third-largest party.”

“How will Israel’s 33rd government look?” asks the Times of Israel. “Let the post-election mathematics begin. For starters, it should be noted that Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman’s Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list is clearly best positioned to head a stable government. It is therefore almost certain that President Shimon Peres will ask the incumbent prime minister to try to build a coalition first. While a meager 31 seats for Likud-Yisrael Beytenu does not give Netanyahu the strength he was hoping for, he has little to fear from his new Knesset colleagues and rivals. Even if Yesh Atid (with 19 seats) teamed up with Labor (15 seats), Hatnua (6 seats), Meretz (6 seats) and Kadima (possibly 2 seats), the center-left bloc would still fall a dozen mandates short of even a slim majority. And it is very unlikely that such a bloc would be joined by either an Arab or an ultra-Orthodox party. For that matter, the center-left parties would most likely be unwilling to pay the political price the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties would demand. So, however weakened, and however spectacular Yesh Atid’s rise, Netanyahu is in the driver’s seat.”

“Conventional wisdom has it that Netanyahu will seek first to partner with the right-wing and the ultra-Orthodox parties, as he has done in the past,” the Times notes. “Shas and United Torah Judaism are often referred to as Netanyahu’s “natural” partners, and both lists have already signaled they are eager to join his coalition. The prime minister also reportedly expressed his willingness to invite them to build a government together, offering to open coalition talks with Shas’s Eli Yishai on Thursday. But with almost all of the votes counted, Likud-Beytenu, the Jewish Home party (11 seats), Shas (wobbling between 11 and 12 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats) were headed for just 60-61 seats — a tiny majority, if that, in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu said late Tuesday that he wants to create a wide government. Therefore, he might seek a coalition that also includes Yesh Atid — not only to have more wiggle room (that is, not to be subject to political blackmail by Shas or UTJ) — but also to look more moderate to outside onlookers and more moderate-minded Israelis. Yet Yesh Atid’s secularist chairman, Yair Lapid, is unlikely to join a coalition that includes both of the ultra-Orthodox parties. Also, any coalition that would include Shas and especially UTJ would hardly agree to push through a law that would draft the Haredim. Nonetheless, this might be Netanyahu’s favored coalition. The question is how effectively Lapid might either resist it, or seek the guarantees that would enable him to join it without betraying his platform. With 19 seats, Lapid has quite some leverage.”

>> Come with me and The Joshua Fund to Israel in 2013 for a “Prayer & Vision Tour” and Epicenter Conference — you’ve read about Israel, now come step into the story.