TEL AVIV (Jun. 23)
The Labor Party trounced the Likud in the elections for the 13th Knesset and stands the best chance of forming the next government, according to computer projections based on exit polling.
The projections, broadcast by Israel Television shortly after the voting ended at 10 p.m. local time Tuesday, gave Labor 47 seats in the new parliament, up from 38, while Likud dropped from 40 to 33, a loss of seven seats.
Actual tallies of the vote were not expected until Wednesday and could differ from the projections. But Israeli commentators described the preliminary results as a “revolution.”
The projections stunned Likud politicians at the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he wanted to see the actual returns before commenting further.
At Labor headquarters, there was jubilation. “It will be a different country, a better country,” said Haim Ramon, the party’s campaign chairman.
If the exit polls are correct, the left wing bloc led by Labor would have 64 seats in the new Knesset, against 56 seats for the Likud-led bloc of right-wing and religious parties.
But the left’s 64 would include two Arab parties on the far left, which won four seats between them. Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin has vowed not to take an Arab party into a Labor-led government.
However, one of those parties, the Arab Democratic Party, is led by a former Labor Party Knesset member, Abdel Wahab Darousha, who could conceivably be persuaded to rejoin Labor.
The other Arab party is the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, a Communist list also known as Hadash. Each was projected to have won two seats.
A BIG GAIN FOR TSOMET
Without the Arabs, Labor and the allied Meretz bloc would be one vote short of a Knesset majority, if the polls are right. Meretz was projected to have won 13 seats, making it the largest of the “smaller” parties.
On the right, the Tsomet party increased its share of seats from two to six, and the extremist Moledet party gained a seat for a total of three, according to the projections.
But the veteran Tehiya party, which had three seats in the outgoing Knesset, apparently failed to win the 1.5 percent minimum vote needed to qualify for the new Knesset.
Others apparently failing to pass the threshold included the Progressive List for Peace, a mainly Arab party, and Rabbi Moshe Levinger’s the Torah and the Land party.
The religious bloc as a whole appeared to have lost four of the 18 seats it held in the outgoing Knesset. The National Religious Party and Shas remained steady at five seats each, but the combined Agudat Yisrael-Degel HaTorah list, known as United Torah Jewry, won just four.
The exit polls were taken at 50 dummy polling booths at carefully selected voting stations, where electors were asked, as they left, to repeat the vote they had cast for the Knesset. The dummy stations closed at 8 p.m., two hours before the official polls closed, to give time for counting and tabulation.
Final results will be known only on Friday, after the tabulation of votes cast by soldiers, sailors, and diplomats and officials serving abroad.