Top news: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likely suceeded in holding on to power in Israeli parliamentary elections but emerged from the polls significantly weakened after his right-wing coalition lost seats in the Knesset, according to exit polls. With nearly all the votes counted, early reports indicate that each block received 60 of parliament's 120 seats, but because certain Arab parties are excluded from coalition building, it is likely Netanyahu will be asked to form a coalition government and retain his hold on the premiership.
The vote represents a powerful rebuke of Netanyahu, who called the election with the expectation that he would cruise to victory and consolidate political power with a right-wing coalition. The election's biggest victor is Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist party, Yesh Atid, which won 19 seats in the legislature, second only to Likud's 31. A political newcomer, Lapid ran a charismatic and centirst campaign focused on domestic issues and on a call to integrate Israel's ultra-orthodox population, which has been growing at a rapid pace in recent years, into the army and workforce.
The messy process of coalition building now begins, and while Netanyahu is likely to remain as prime minister, he will have to cobble together a coalition on the heels of a humiliating election defeat. Netanyahu, who said he would like to form a broad coalition government, called Lapid and told him that "we have the opportunity to do great things together."
In remarks to his supporters after the announcement of initial results, Lapid sounded a similar note of unity, raising the possibility that a broad coalition government may be formed. "I call on the leaders of the political establishment to work with me together, to the best of their ability to form as broad a government as possible that will contain moderate forces from the left and right, the right and the left, so that we will truly be able to bring about real change," Lapid said.
United Kingdom: British Prime Minister David Cameron said that he would offer a referendum on continued UK membership in the European Union after his government has negotiated concessions in the terms of the country's membership. Cameron's Tories face an electoral challenge from the right in the UK Independence Party, which has been gaining in the polls recently and threatens to unseat the Conservative government. But the remarks, which came in a long-awaited speech and were aimed at shoring up the Conservative flank, elicited furrowed brows in European capitals. "You cannot do Europe à la carte,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "Imagine the E.U. was a soccer club: once you’ve joined up and you’re in this club, you can’t then say you want to play rugby."
- Russia began evacuating its citizens from Syria, the latest indication of increasing skepticism in Moscow that the Syrian regime will maintain its grip on power.
- Algerian forces searched the Sahara Desert for five foreign workers who disappeared during a hostage drama at a natural gas complex.
- Jordanians are heading to the polls today to decide a parliamentary election boycotted by the largest opposition parties.
- On the heels of a U.N. Security Council decision to tighten sanctions, North Korea hinted that it might conduct a test of a nuclear weapon.
- Amid escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, Indian officials warned residents of war-torn Kashmir to prepare for a possible nuclear war.
- Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin relinquished his position in the formal Chinese pecking order as he steps back during the country's ongoing political transition.
- The United States began airlifting French forces to the Malian capital of Bamako in support of France's ongoing military operations in Mali.
- Gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram killed at least 23 people in separate attacks in northeastern Nigeria.
- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor began his appeal of the 50-year sentence delivered against him for war crimes.
- European finance ministers have given the green light for 11 eurozone members to develop a financial transactions tax aimed at stemming speculative trading.
- France and Germany marked the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, which helped reconcile the two formerly bitter enemies.
- Three men have been arrested in connection with a Rotterdam art heist last October.
- Venezuelan government officials said President Hugo Chavez is in good spirits and recovering but declined to say when the embattled president would return from Cuba.
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify today on Capitol Hill about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
- Water supply in the Chilean capital of Santiago is being restored after flash flooding forced the closure of sanitation plants and left some two million people without water.