Netanyahu primed to remain as Israel’s prime minister

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Likud coalition is set to have more than 60 seats in Knesset, exit polls show

By MEE and agencies

Exit polls from Israel’s hotly contested election show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition edging a victory over his rival, Benny Gantz.

The most recent exit polls show that the right-wing bloc is slated to get between 63-65 seats, a slight majority in the 120-member Knesset, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Gantz’s bloc is set to get 55-57 seats.

Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Kahol Lavan parties each won 35 seats, but smaller right-wing parties teamed up to form a coalition with Likud.

The far-right Hayamin Hehadash (New Right) party did not reach the threshold of 3.25 percent to get a seat at the Knesset, early exit polls showed, while the United Arab List-Balad, a coalition of political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, netted at least four seats.

However, as exit polls still continue to roll in, both of Israel’s top contenders for premiership announced victory on Tuesday.

“We won! The Israeli public has had their say,” the Blue and White party’s Benny Gantz tweeted as the polls closed.

At Likud’s election party, Netanyahu said “this is a night of great victory”.

“I operate day and night for you, for the country, for our land,” he said.

“The right-wing bloc will continue to lead Israel for the next four years,” he added.

After the election, Israel’s president will consult with party leaders to determine which coalition is most likely to form a stable government. The president will also nominate the prime minister, who is usually the head of the party that won the most seats.

After polls closed on Tuesday, former defense minister and leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, told Israeli news site Haartez that he did not believe the exit polls were accurate, accusing pollsters of “manipulation and psychological warfare”.

“As someone who walked around all day in the field and saw how the exit polls were conducted, there is a non-negligible gap between the exit polls and the real voting results,” Avigdor told Haaretz.

No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations will likely lie ahead.

After the election, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will consult the leaders of every party represented in the Knesset and select the person he believes has the best chance of forming a government.

If Netanyahu does win the race, the 69-year-old Prime Minister will become the longest-serving premier in Israel’s 71-year history.

Earlier on the election day, Netanyahu’s Likud party provided activists with 1,200 hidden cameras “to monitor” polling stations in Palestinian areas within Israel, Haaretz reported. The Palestinian community accused Likud of attempting to intimidate its voters.

The cameras were taken down once word spread and Israel’s Central Elections Committee filed a police complaint.

According to pollsters, Palestinians citizens of Israel turned up to polls in historically low numbers.

Channel 12’s poll predicts both Arab-majority parties Hadash-Taal and United Arab List-Balad (Balad-UAL) to come in with five and six seats, respectively. Channel 11’s poll had Hadash-Taal in at 6 seats, while Channel 13 showed the party coming in with 7. Both polls showed Balad-UAL as winning no seats.

Days before the election, Palestinian citizens of Israel launched a campaign calling for the boycott of the Israeli elections.

 

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