General elections start in Israel

14 April, 2019, 02:49 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Blue and White party leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz ahead of a press conference in Tel Aviv

The vote - following the general elections held across the country on Tuesday - appears to be split with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and the Blue and White Party lead by Benny Gantz receiving 35 seats each.

With more than four million votes counted as of 9 a.m., Likud had snagged 26.27% of the vote, or 35 seats in the 120-seat legislature - the party's best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.

Both ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, won eight seats each, becoming the third largest parties in the Israeli parliament, or the Knesset. However, the only other parties that have the power to provide enough seats for a ruling majority are the right-wing parties, which this year are mostly made up of the religious parties.

With a victory, Netanyahu would capture a fourth consecutive term and fifth overall, which this summer will make him Israel's longest-ever serving leader.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on Netanyahu's possible re-election to a record fifth term, saying that Berlin was waiting for official results, expected Thursday.

The closely contested race was widely seen in Israel as a referendum on Mr Netanyahu's character and record in the face of corruption allegations.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon weighs in on what it Benjamin Netanyahu's likely reelection means for the U.S.

With ex-military chief Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White coalition leading in the polls, Netanyahu pulled out all the stops to shore up right-wing support.

"It's a night of tremendous victory", Netanyahu told supporters.

Second, the election confirms that the Trump administration will give both unstintingly and enthusiastically to the Israeli right. Any concession to Palestine would likely bring objections from Mr Netanyahu's far-right coalition allies.

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The vote had always been expected to be close, even with Netanyahu facing potential corruption charges.

"This is a clear beginning of Netanyahu's fifth term, but his fifth term might end up being his shortest one", says Reuven Hazan, a political scientist from Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

With five seats each were Yisrael Beytenu (with 4.15%) and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (3.66%).

Israel's 21 percent Arab minority saw its parties lose seats.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures after he speaks following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's parliamentary election at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel on April 10, 2019.

"They have said no to peace and yes to the occupation", he said. 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.

Due to the strong resistance to the Israeli religious establishment on the part of numerous immigrants who Liberman represents, Yisrael Beytenu has found itself at loggerheads in the past with Haredi parties when they promoted legislation relating to religious matters. Fighting for his political life, Netanyahu spent the weeks ahead of the vote campaigning furiously to energise his right-wing base. Tuesday's election came just days after Netanyahu vowed to annex illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he won.

Whether or not he will follows through, his next government will further tighten Israel's grip on the territories, to prevent any prospects of a viable Palestinian state.

Although the president acts largely in a ceremonial capacity, he is charged with choosing a candidate for prime minister after hearing recommendations from the heads of all factions, according to the Associated Press.

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