(JERUSALEM) — Voters in Israel have surprised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but not in a way he would have preferred.
While Netanyahu will stay his country’s leader — as was expected — his right-wing Likud-Beiteinu bloc only retained 31 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, while the centrist There Is a Future party took 17 seats and left-of-center Labor captured 17.
Likud-Beiteinu has 42 seats in the current parliament so its demise is considered an indictment of Netanyahu’s hard-line policies.
Netanyahu had believed that other right-wing parties would perform better than they did, meaning that he will likely have to moderate his stances toward the Palestinians and building settlements in the West Bank by forming a coalition with centrist groups.
The turnout at Israeli polls was about the same as 2009, about two-thirds of eligible voters. Pundits say that the large number of undecided voters before Tuesday probably accounted for the impressive showing of There Is a Future and Labor.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN