Kadima wins but Bibi Netanyahu becomes Prime Minister.
This is how I called it last night before I went to bed. It sounds as crazy as Victor Krum catching the golden snitch but Ireland winning the Quidditch World Cup but it is quite plausable.
It's 5:15 AM in Israel and finally all of the votes have been tabulated. Centrist Kadima won with 23% of the vote (28 seats) followed closely by Right-wing Likud with 27 seats. I had expected Likud to win but apparently not. However I wouldn't count Likud out yet. President Shimon Perez will now call on the head of the winning party, Tzipi Livni to form a coalition. I don't think she can do it. To make A coalition government one must have a combination of at least 61 seats out of 120 seats in the Knesset, meaning a combination of multiple parties. If Kadima wanted to form a coalition government with all the leftist parties they would fall 6 short, and that's implying that all of the left wing parties join them (which they won't).
Left & center 28+13+3+4+4+3 = 55
United Arab List/Ta'al 4
They NEED the right wing parties here. Likud trails by only a seat and within the entire right wing there are 65 seats. Likud could conceivably form a pan-right coalition/phalanx without the inclusion of Kadima.
Right 27+15+11+5+3+4 =65
Yisrael Beitenu 15
United Torah Judaism 5
Jewish Home 3
National Union 4
As long as Shas doesn't whore itself out to the highest bidder as it did last time (especially as their spiritual leader pronounces his next controversial statement), Likud has Kadima in a vice grip. Likud is likely going to hold out, as is far-right wing Yisrael Beiteinu and not immediately attach themselves to coalitions. The rest of these parties will follow suit.
When Tzipi Livni tried to form a coalition government after the special Kadima Primary after disgraced Premier Ehud Olmert stepped down last year she failed miserably. And now she has even LESS supportive parties. The Arab parties have said they would boycott any coalition that included anyone who demanded a loyalty oath so there is no way any Arab party (the viable parties being Ta'al/UAL, Hadash, and Balad).
About the loyalty oath. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the third place winning Yisrael Beiteinu party has demanded that all citizens of Israel need to take a loyalty oath to Israel just as one must take a loyalty oath to become a citizen of the United States (or in any elementary school classroom's Pledge of Allegiance). If one refuses to take this oath, they will be stripped of their citizenship, right to vote, and right to run for public office but will remain as permanent residents of Israel.
Labor, once the winningest party in Israel's history (they held control from the founding of the modern state until Menachem Begin's Likud finally wrested control in the 70s) has now fallen to fourth place, and although I like their leader Ehud Barak, I don't know if he will have that much of a role in the coalition.
So there are a number of scenarios that can play out, and as long as Shas stays out of trouble it will be a right wing government. Kadima now needs to decide how much it will capitulate to the right or risk being the head of the opposition. President Peres is mandated to appoint the person he feels most likely to be able to form a coalition to do so, but Livni might be passed over for Bibi Netanyahu because Tzipi is likely to fail once again. We shall see. Whatever happens, I hope it is for the best of Israel.
Oh, and Haaretz seems to agree with my theory