With about 90 percent of the vote counted as of this morning, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu appears set to return to power in a stunning comeback. Having lost power in May 2021, and facing mounting legal challenges, his political career seemed over. Now, with his right-wing alliance set to secure a majority — likely between 61 and 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset — his return to the premiership seems almost inevitable. The party he leads, Likud, is likely to receive around 32 seats.

While Bibi may once again lead his country, his...

With about 90 percent of the vote counted as of this morning, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu appears set to return to power in a stunning comeback. Having lost power in May 2021, and facing mounting legal challenges, his political career seemed over. Now, with his right-wing alliance set to secure a majority — likely between 61 and 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset — his return to the premiership seems almost inevitable. The party he leads, Likud, is likely to receive around 32 seats.

While Bibi may once again lead his country, his coalition will be different this time around. The far-right Religious Zionist Party (RZP), led by firebrands Betzalel Smoltrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, will have around 14 seats, up from seven before the election. Ben Gvir in particular has a history of extremism that has left many concerned about his entering government. As the third-largest party in the Knesset, without which Bibi cannot achieve a majority, the RZP will have significant leverage in the coalition.

Smoltrich and Ben Gvir have already stirred up trouble within the right-wing alliance, portending more trouble to come (which is ironic, given that Bibi had worked to bring the two together). As vital to Bibi’s survival, one can expect the new government to move to the right. That being said, it is unlikely that Bibi, who is in the mainstream and a seasoned political operator, will be willing to go too far in RZP’s extremist direction.

As Israel’s fifth visit to the polls since 2019, election fatigue and political opposition makes it unlikely that Bibi will try to jettison the RZP in favor of another alliance partner. The previous coalition, currently headed by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, was a hodgepodge of left-wing and right-wing parties united in their distaste for Netanyahu, but not much else — hence its one year lifespan. While Lapid’s centrist party is on course to be the second largest, with around 24 seats, his staunch opposition to Bibi makes it highly unlikely that he would ever join in coalition with Likud. Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party, on track to receive about 12 seats, is a potential partner, but he too has deep misgivings about Netanyahu.

These are problems largely of Bibi’s own making, having alienated many of his erstwhile allies through deception and unkept promises. As Israel’s longest serving prime minister (12 consecutive years, plus three in the 1990s), he was bound to make enemies. But whatever his flaws, he has been one of the most consequential figures in modern Israeli history. He was instrumental in building international opposition to the Iran Deal, greatly strengthened Israel’s security through the Abraham Accords and efforts to stymie Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon, and presided over a generally prosperous and growing economy. He will bring this experience back into office and — hopefully — will provide some needed stability to Israel.