As he predicted when he left office just 18 months ago, after an unprecedented 12-year term, Israel's once-and-future premier Benjamin Netanyahu has won a sixth-term chance to lead his fractious country.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who for a little over four months led the fragile coalition that unseated Netanyahu, 73, who is on trial for three charges of corruption, conceded on Thursday night, as soon as the final vote count became official.
Less than 5,000 votes separate the votes cast for the band of parties that support Netanyahu's prime ministership and those that oppose it, but his mastery of the complex calibration of Israeli coalition politics granted him a stable 64 seats out of the 120 positions in Israel's legislature, the Knesset.
This will not be the same Netanyahu who has been revered and reviled, almost in equal measure, for the entire length of his three decades in public life.
There are no women among the coalition partners in Netanyahu's incoming government. For the first time in Israel's history, orthodox religious Jews will be a majority in government and a majority of the cabinet ministers—while remaining a smaller minority than Muslims in the general population.
Netanyahu's partners in the incoming coalition are three parties representing ultra-orthodox Jewry and three smaller extremist, nationalist parties that together represent an amalgam of racial supremacists, homophobes, and theocrats.
Representatives of the latter group, Religious Zionism, now the third largest parliamentary party, spent much of Thursday putting the LGBTQ community on notice. Among the threats: annulling Israel's prohibition on conversion treatments, canceling subsidies of medications used by trans persons, and canceling Israel's many Gay Pride Parades.
Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, a provocateur and veteran of 53 criminal convictions, including on terror charges, whose entry into the United States was banned for decades and who now hopes to become Netanyahu’s minister of police, greeted new followers on Thursday with a small greeting: “Hello, world!”
Netanyahu's ally Viktor Orban of Hungary was the first foreign leader to congratulate Netanyahu. U.S. Ambassador Tom Nides called to congratulate Netanyahu, and President Biden is expected to call before the start of next week.
In one auguring of the new world unfurling at Israel's gates, Netanyahu allies copied former President Donald Trump's playbook and demanded the ousting of the chair of the Central Elections Commission, and threatened the position of the attorney general, which in Israel thus far has been a civil servant.