The election was predicted to redraw Israel’s political map, and one of the evening’s surprises was the performance of Avigdor Lieberman. The ultranationalist leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party has stolen a march on Likud, apparently siphoning off much of the right-wing secular vote.
An immigrant from the former Soviet Union, Lieberman is especially popular among Israel’s large Russian-speaking population. “I promise that in the next elections we will be the governing party,” he said in reaction to exit polls. “We will work so that Jews from all over the worldcome and take up residence in the state of Israel.” A former cabinet minister, Lieberman lives in a settlement in the West Bank and controversially advocates the transfer of many Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian territories.