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Israel election: Netanyahu wins fifth term as rival concedes

Benjamin Netanyahu has already begun to broker deals with religious and far-right parties

       

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to serve a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister after his main rival conceded that he had lost the election.

With 97% of votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White party, led by former army general Benny Gantz, had tied with 35 seats each in the 120-seat house, the Knesset. However, the rightwing bloc that Netanyahu is part of had 65 in total, a comfortable majority.

“We respect the decision of the people,” Gantz said in a televised statement on Wednesday evening, adding that Blue and White had “founded a true alternative rule to Netanyahu”.

His number two, Yair Lapid, said while the party “didn’t win in this round, we will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition”.

Despite three impending corruption indictments, the prime minister emerged as the winner from a tight election race to continue his 10-year stretch in high office.

Netanyahu has already begun to broker deals with religious and far-right parties to form Israel’s next government. The 69-year-old former commando, who first became prime minister in 1996, is on track to become Israel’s longest-ever serving leader this summer.

“This is a night of tremendous victory. Tremendous,” he said even before early poll counts had been released. “Tonight, I already began talks with the leaders of the rightwing parties, our natural partners.”

Several world leaders, especially nationalists, rushed to congratulate Netanyahu.

 

“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” said Trump, who has tasked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with drafting a Middle East peace plan. Palestinians have preemptively rejected it, citing overt Trump bias, while Netanyahu has shown open disdain for peace efforts.

India’s Narendra Modi tweeted to his “dear friend”, and said he hoped to “take our bilateral partnership to new heights”.

 

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April 11, 2019

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