by Anat Shalev
JERUSALEM, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli political framework after Tuesday's elections shows Israelis have forsaken the traditional right/left parties and pinned their hope in smaller- scale center parties, led by the surprise of the elections, Yesh Atid.
So who are the winners and losers of the 2013 elections?
Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is both a winner and a loser. A winner, since he is the most likely candidate to form a new government and become, for the third time in his life, the Israeli prime minister.
However, Netanyahu lost a lot of his political power in the elections, which would make it all the more harder for "King Bibi", as he was termed by Time Magazine, to rule his "kingdom".
Many of Netanyahu's voters punished him, political analysts in Israel suggested -- as well as politician Shelly Yachimovich, for foregoing domestic issues and a socioeconomic agenda which were marked as a top concern among hundreds of thousands of Israeli middle-classers who took to the street amid the 2011 social justice protests.
When Netanyahu first announced the merger with Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beytenu, early polls suggested the joint list would get more than 40 seats. In the last two months, polls have showed a downfall in Netanyahu's support base, up to the outcome of just 31 seats, 11 seats less than what the two parties had, combined, in the 18th Knesset.
"It is not a good outcome for Netanyahu," Roni Milo, former Likud Knesset (parliament) member and Tel Aviv mayor and currently a political commentator and businessman, told Xinhua Wednesday.
Milo, who is still active within the party lines, expressed his concerns in the past few months to Netanyahu as polls indicated the party's downward spiral.
"When the merger with Yisrael Beytenu occurred, I thought it was a good concept, having a cemented, big party that could be stable. In the past, the Likud party was joined from two parties -- the hawkish Herut party and the moderate liberals," he added.
"Now, however, this merger took Netanyahu from the center further to the right and that counteracted the momentum within Israelis, as the results show," Milo said.
While other parties showcased a variety of new candidates, the Likud party offered its voters a hawkish roster including, for instance, Moshe Feiglin at the no. 19 spot, who in the past challenged Netanyahu's leadership of the party. At the same breath, the party members voted out moderate and experienced politicians like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin.
Local news outlets reported Wednesday that many Likud members are disgruntled by the results and are pointing fingers specifically at the party's drowsy campaign.
"There was arrogance and indifference in the party," a senior member of the Likud told the Ynet news website Wednesday.
"Netanyahu has to get the message through. The public is tired of the type of politics he's bringing to the table. Someone will have to pay the price for our downfall," he said.
The surprise of the elections and one of the stars, without a doubt, is former TV personality and secular icon Yair Lapid, a political newcomer.
Pollsters in Israel did not give his party more than 11 or 12 seats, but at the nick of time, many undecided voters -- former Kadima voters, disappointed Netanyahu supporters and other center- leaning civilians -- turned out and voted for Lapid.
Therefore he will play a key role in forming the next government. His platform turned to issues on the minds of many middle-class Israelis, among which the equal share of the burden within the Israeli society and integrating the ultra-Orthodox into the workforce and unto the army.
Lapid, who speaks to the heart of the Israeli consensus, also promised to strive to lower the high costs of living in Israel, one of the main items on the agenda in the last social justice protest in 2011.
"The Israeli media should learn its lesson from this outcome. They totally underestimated us," Ofer Shelach, no. 6 on the Yesh Atid roster, a former journalist and commentator, and a recently- turned politician, told Xinhua Wednesday.
"We represent the mainstream of Israeli society that has come to make a clean politics. Israelis are sick and tired of dirty old politics. We tried to send out the message that we will do things differently, and I think it appealed to many Israelis," Shelach said.
"The Israeli public goes with those who offer solutions, and not the same thing as before. That's why they're always looking for something new," he added.
On the losers' side, the Labor party will have some soul- searching to do following these elections. A lot was expected from leader Shelly Yachimovich, after former leader Ehud Barak shrunk the once most dominant party in the country to just 13 seats in the 18th Knesset.
Yachimovich did bring fresh and young faces to the party, yet her efforts failed to garner the party more than just two extra seats, a failure by all accounts.
"The problem with our campaign was that we totally focused on the socioeconomic issues and we weren't the only one talking about these things," a member of the Labor's campaign headquarters who wished to remain anonymous told Xinhua.
"There were a lot of discussions and criticism about her choice not to talk about peace with the Palestinians and focus on the diplomatic agenda as well. That lost us a lot of left-wing voters who turned to other parties like Meretz, or smaller-scale parties, which didn't make it through the threshold and put many left-wing votes to waste," she explained.
"We lost votes from those leaning towards the center-right because some members of our roster are considered 'too leftists'. But the main problem is that we lost our main left-wing support base, that's what caused these results. We didn't make a clear enough statement," she said.
Yachimovich herself did not hide the fact that she was " disappointed" from the results. She wrote on her Facebook page, " This is a disappointing outcome. We wanted the public to go with us in our not simple yet right path. There's still a long way ahead of us."
Another loser from the elections' results is Tzipi Livni, who joined at the nick of time to the race, and further divided the center-left bloc. Her party, at first expected to receive more than 10 seats, only got seven seats at the end.
On the winning side, we also have Naftali Bennet. Though his far-right, traditional Habayit Hayeudi (Jewish Home) party received 11 seats and did not become the second largest party as some polls predicted recently, the unknown newcomer politician has managed to become a force to be reckoned with at the next Knesset.
The 40-year-old hardliner, a reserve military officer and a former software tycoon, capitalized on right-wing voters disappointed by Netanyahu's policies. His party will most probably find itself also in the ranks of the new government. In his speech following the results, Bennet said he and his party are going to build a "new Jewish home" in the state of Israel.
From the left, a small-time winner is Meretz, which in its good days gotten 12 seats in Rabin's government in 1992 but had just three lawmakers under its belt in the 18th Knesset. But its zealously hardworking members, who legislated dozens of rules and served as an opposition to Netanyahu's government, doubled in size to six members, and got a vote of confidence from its left-wing electorate.
Whereas the religious parties and the Arab parties kept their power with the same amount of seats, Kadima was another surprise winner and loser of the elections.
A winner, because the former ruling party made it past the needed two-seats threshold and entered the Knesset at the last minute. A loser, because the center party, which appealed in the past to center voters, have spiraled from 28 seats in the 18th Knesset, punished for its three-months stint at Netanyahu's government.