With the vote on 99.5 percent, Kadima had a less than expected 28 seats. Labor held at 20 seats, and Shas rose to 13, making the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party the third largest faction in the Knesset.

The Likud had hoped to block a center-left coalition, but with almost all of the votes in weakened to 11 seats, far below the figures the party had hoped and a far cry from the 38 seats it won under Ariel Sharon in 2003.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Russian immigrant-dominated faction Yisrael Beiteinu captured 12 seats, positioning itself as the chief opposition party to head the nationalist camp.

In the largest surprise of the night, the Pensioners party won seven seats. The right-wing National Union-National Religious Party secured nine seats, with United Torah Judaism at six and Meretz at four. The Arab parties stood to win a total of ten seats.~Haaretz

Far from the rally to Likud that I, along with a lot of conventional wisdom-echoing pundits, expected after Sharon’s incapacitation and Hamas’ victory, the Israeli election results represent some good news from a region that has not exactly been overflowing in encouraging reports. Likud continues its decline and Netanyahu’s leadership has been judged a failure (again), which must be regarded as a victory for sanity and intelligence. The reality that the “nationalists” must rely on Russian immigrants to serve as their spearhead underscores the problems the new opposition will have in creating a coherent alternative to the projected Kadima-Labour government.