The Likud party suffered an unequivocal blow on Tuesday that harmed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Political foxes in the party will presumably emerge from the ruins in the coming months to battle over who will succeed him.
However, Netanyahu will have the chance to form the next government and to try to make it stable. He must realize that tough days are ahead of him. Given the fact that the joint Likud-Beytenu list lost a quarter of the seats the two parties held together in the last Knesset, Netanyahu will need to exert himself to regain the status he held several months ago.
Likud ran a flawed campaign throughout (from its unification with Yisrael Beytenu in October to the failed enlistment of Moshe Kahlon on Sunday) but it still earned significantly more seats than any of its competitors. This is Likud's final chance. It must put aside its natural embarrassment and open negotiations to put Israel on the path of governmental stability.
The big winner was, of course, Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party. During the election campaign, Lapid did not fall into the same trap that Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich did when she said that her party would not join a government led by Likud-Beytenu. The responsible public wanted a functioning government. It also wanted to punish the ruling party to a certain extent and to curtail the influence of the ultra-Orthodox (Meretz leader Zahava Galon also chalked up a significant achievement on Tuesday, proving that Meretz's previous leadership was too stale).
The main axis of the next government will be Likud-Beytenu, while Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi could breathe new life into the public as Israel deals with socio-economic and diplomatic challenges. The next government could also encourage the inevitable process of integrating the ultra-Orthodox population into the military and the workforce.
It is very interesting that Aryeh Deri's return did not bolster Shas, and rightly so. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's party should not be disregarded, but Shas deserved to be punished for allowing Deri to return after having served prison time for corruption.
There is also no reason to mourn the near total erasure of the Kadima party. Ehud Olmert needs to understand that his path back to the Knesset remains blocked.
Likud-Beytenu was weakened because it was not attentive to the voices of Israel's young generation. Likud turned to the Right and lost the liberal wing that had accompanied it since the party was founded by Menachem Begin. It will have to work hard to bring this wing back. But Lapid and Bennett, with all the similarities and differences between them, will fill in for what the Likud lost in this election.