JERUSALEM — When Israelis woke on Wednesday, the day after their fourth election in two years, it felt nothing like a new dawn.
With 90 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing alliance had 52 seats, while his opponents had 56 — both sides several seats short of the 61 needed to form a coalition government with a majority in Parliament. If those counts stand, they could prolong by months the political deadlock that has paralyzed the country for two years.
That prospect was already forcing Israelis to confront questions about the viability of their electoral system, the functionality of their government and whether the divisions between the country’s various polities — secular and devout, right-wing and leftist, Jewish and Arab — have made the country unmanageable.
“It’s not getting any better. It’s even getting worse — and everyone is so tired,” said Rachel Azaria, a centrist former lawmaker who chairs an alliance of environment-focused civil society groups. “The entire country is going crazy.”
a small, Islamist Arab party, Raam, to form a majority coalition.
Either of those outcomes would defy conventional logic. The first option would force Islamists into a Netanyahu-led bloc that includes politicians who want to expel Arab citizens of Israel whom they deem “disloyal.” The second would unite Raam with a lawmaker who has baited Arabs and told them to leave the country.
Beyond the election itself, the gridlock extends to the administrative stagnation that has left Israel without a national budget for two consecutive years in the middle of a pandemic, and with several key Civil Service posts unstaffed.
the trial of Mr. Netanyahu himself, who is being prosecuted on corruption charges that he denies. Mr. Netanyahu has also dismissed the claim that he will use any new majority to grant himself immunity, but others likely to be in his potential coalition have said that would be up for debate.