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Israeli press bemoans "stalemate"

Tzipi Livni
Kadima's Tzipi Livni (pic) and Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory

Israeli papers agonise over the inconclusive results of Tuesday's parliamentary elections. With both Tzipi Livni's centrist Kadima party and Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud claiming victory, commentators speculate about the possible composition of a coalition government.

Commentators discussed the possibility that Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the "extreme right" Yisrael Beiteinu party, would play kingmaker in the formation of the government. Despite polls suggesting that Kadima would emerge as the largest single party, it remained unclear who President Shimon Peres would choose as prime minister.

Several commentators lamented Israel's system of proportional representation, held responsible for what one writer described as a "political crisis". One commentator noted the "dangerous" fall in voter participation of Israel's Arab community. Irrespective of the final result, said one writer, all of Israel's top political parties are now "by every accepted international standard" right-wing.

Ben Kaspit in Ma'ariv

If there is no sensational surprise [Netanyahu] will still be the next prime minister... Woe unto this government, woe unto Israel. Not because of Netanyahu or his qualifications; because of the system; because of the stalemate; because of the dead end.

Sima Kadmon in Yediot Aharonot

If the exit polls are right Tzipi Livni yesterday achieved the unbelievable... she defeated the man who until recently no one doubted would occupy the prime minister's chair [Netanyahu]... This does not necessarily mean that she will form the next government... If she admits [Avigdor] Lieberman, then Labour and [left-wing party] Meretz will not join. If she takes Labour and Meretz she will have an impracticable coalition.

Yossi Verter in Ha'aretz

Without [Avigdor] Lieberman, Livni has no government... Only Israel's version of democracy could come up with the largest political bloc being comprised of Likud and right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties at the same time that the largest political party is the one leading the centre-left camp.

Herb Keinon in Jerusalem Post

While tradition has always seen the head of the largest Knesset party given the first opportunity to do so, the results this time could present [President Shimon Peres] with a real headache... The very fact that the president may face this kind of dilemma underlines the unworkability of the Israeli electoral system.

Shalom Yerushalmi in centre-right Ma'ariv

Israel wakes up this morning to a political crisis the likes of which it seems we have never known... Avigdor Lieberman holds the key to the next government... He wants to open the door for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Avirama Golan in Ha'aretz

Tzipi Livni's claim that the old division between right and left is dead is only partially correct. Livni was referring to the schism between hawks and doves, and on this point she is right, as everyone has become hawks... But by every accepted international standard Kadima is moderately right-wing, Likud is the immoderate right and [Avigdor Lieberman's] Yisrael Beiteinu is extreme right.

Nahum Barnea in Yediot Aharonot

Only 54% of the Arab sector voted yesterday... The decline in the rate of participation in voting indicates the dwindling affinity of Israel's Arabs to the state, and this trend is dangerous. In the political fuss to come in the next few weeks this problem will be forgotten... but it will not disappear.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



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