Israeli election: Netanyahu set for historic fifth term

An Arab Israeli man prepares to vote in Israel's parliamentary elections

During a tight and ugly election campaign Mr Netanyahu accused Mr Gantz of conspiring with Arab parties to topple him, leading to suggestiong that the leader was demonizing the country's Arab community.

In an i24 news poll, Benny Gantz's Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance received 33 seats, putting his party in first place, while Netanyahu has been placed second with 27 seats.

As their elections were wrapping up yesterday it was obvious that it was going to be a close race, with everyone watching to see how many seats in the Knesset would be held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and how many Benny Gantz's Blue and White party could pick up.

Channel 13 forecast Mr Netanyahu could piece together a ruling bloc controlling 66 seats compared with 54 for a Blue and White-led coalition of centre-left and left-wing parties. "And here we have returned here, because of you and for you", Netanyahu said, adding that his win against Gantz was "almost unprecedented". General Benny Gantz has stepped into the running with his Blue and White alliance, hoping to snatch power from under the current Prime Minister's feet. "These elections have a clear victor and a clear loser".

Despite both men claiming victory on Tuesday night, a clearer picture emerged by Wednesday morning as the results began streaming in, painting Netanyahu as the victor. They have the right to vote, but this time many of them did not exercise it because of a law enacted by Netanyahu, which virtually relegated the non-Jewish minority to being second-class citizens. "I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partner this very night". "We have established a genuine leadership alternative", he said. "There is nothing final about (the results)".

"We've had elections before where he didn't know the results but here it is even messier", he said. For one thing, Netanyahu is immersed in a criminal investigation after Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced plans to indict the prime minister on charges of breach of trust, bribery and fraud.

Now the tough part: a coalition government needs to be created.

Israeli TV exit polls produced differing results about who will emerge as the leader of the largest single party, and the polls have been wrong in the past.

But with 97 percent of the vote counted, results showed the Likud and other right-wing parties allied to him with some 65 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the reports said.

"Yes, friends, I will be the prime minister of everyone and not just those who voted for me".

US officials say they have briefed regional leaders, though the Palestinian Authority says it has been boycotting diplomatic contacts with Washington to protest President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinians are already concerned about one of the last-minute campaign promises Netanyahu made to annex West Bank settlements - extending Israeli sovereignty onto land most of the world considers "occupied territory". He allied with two other former military chiefs, Moshe Yaalon and Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as Yair Lapid, a former finance minister whose centrist Yesh Atid had 11 seats in the previous parliament.

Commenting on the election, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo. They asked for a different path, and we showed them the way". A spokesperson for the Likud party confirmed to CBN News that voter turnout is low this election.

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