Despite both Netanyahu and challenger Gantz claiming victory, it appears that the Prime Minister will form the next Israeli government.
Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have once again won a narrow victory to remain Israel’s prime minister.
According to Israel’s i24 News, with 97% of the vote counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party had garnered 26.28%, which would translate into 35 seats in the next Knesset. The rival Blue and White list, headed by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, came in with 25.97% of the vote, which would also give them 35 seats.
The next two biggest factions would be religious parties — Shas and United Torah Judaism — with eight seats each. The Union of Right Wing Parties appears to have won five seats and Kulanu, the party headed by former Likudnik Moshe Kahlon won four. Given that all of these parties have pledged to support Netanyahu as prime minister during next week’s consultations with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Avigdor Liberman, with five seats, would appear to be a coalition partner for Netanyahu, but Liberman, who resigned last year as defense minister, has not yet pledged to support for Netanyahu.
The New York Times reported:
“I’m very emotional this night,” an ebullient Mr. Netanyahu told a cheering crowd of supporters in Tel Aviv, after kissing his wife, Sara Netanyahu. “It is a night of great victory.”
The Times characterized the vote as “a referendum on Mr. Netanyahu and his decades in public life, including 13 years as prime minister over four terms.”
Rival Benny Gantz also claimed victory and has, so far, refused to concede.
Even winning the election, Netanyahu faces possible indictment on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. In late February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu.
Sometime in the next month or two, Netanyahu and his lawyers are slated to meet with Mandelblit and try to persuade the attorney general not to proceed with the indictment. The process of deciding whether or not to indict Netanyahu could carry into 2020.
If Mandelblit indicts Netanyahu, he “faces the possibility of becoming the country’s first sitting premier to be criminally charged, the Times noted. However, that would not disqualify him from governing.
In the meantime, Netanyahu will start the process of forming his unprecedented fifth government.
UPDATE: Gantz concedes
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 10, 2019
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