Published: Thu, April 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

After close Israeli election, Benny Gantz’s party concedes defeat

After close Israeli election, Benny Gantz’s party concedes defeat

The Blue and White party, headed by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, drew even with Netanyahu's Likud party, but the incumbent prime minister is poised to form a government with his larger bloc of religious and nationalist allies.

The degree of harm which Mr Netanyahu will wreak in his fifth term is yet to be determined.

"We won! The Israeli public has had its say!" said Gantz's centrist Blue and White party, which two out of three exit polls saw taking more seats than Netanyahu's conservative Likud. "We will make Likud's life hell in the opposition". Arab politicians called it an attempt at intimidation, while Mr Netanyahu said cameras would prevent fraud. The president was on a flight to Texas. "He's been a great ally and he's a friend".

"I would like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu".

Mr Trump predicted a boost to his administration's promised plan for a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu party is poised to remain in the next Knesset after winning five seats in the 120-member parliament in Tuesday's election, with almost all the votes counted.

Meanwhile a poll by Israel's Channel 12 put Gantz's lead over Netanyahu even wider, predicting 37 seats for Gantz and 33 for Netanyahu. The victor has to make a coalition with smaller parties, a process that takes weeks to from a cabinet.

"It is a night of colossal victory", the 69-year-old Netanyahu told cheering supporters in a late-night speech at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv after Tuesday's vote.

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As he walked onto the stage to chanting crowds, he planted a kiss on the lips of his wife Sara before dramatically wiping lipstick from his face.

Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters in Tel Aviv.

Should Netanyahu retain the helm, he will become the longest-serving Israeli prime minister in July, overtaking the country's founding father, David Ben-Gurion. Legal experts expect at least some charges to be filed.

Israel's economy grew almost 75 percent during Netanyahu's decade in power, expanding even during the global recession, though the gains haven't done much to close the gap between rich and poor. The two main parties won 35 seats apiece. One indicated a Blue and White victory, while two others showed a tie and an advantage for the right-wing bloc, which appears to have been accurate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State at his residence in Jerusalem.

Though the Palestinian issue was rarely mentioned in the raucous campaign, Netanyahu had in the final stretch pledged for the first time to annex parts of the occupied West Bank in a desperate bid to rally his right-wing base. But with Trump's moves on Jerusalem and the Golan, the prime minister may feel emboldened to advocate annexation.

Senior PLO official Saeb Erekat expressed this view when the final results of the elections were announced by stating, "The Israelis have voted "no to peace" to preserve the current situation". "They have chosen an overwhelmingly right-wing, xenophobic and anti-Palestinian parliament to represent them", she said. While the grant money was first meant to help with the Middle East peace process, it was then used to actively oppose Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's strategy for this election has been to syphon votes from ultranationalist rivals, pushing his policies and rhetoric further to the right.

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