Likud leader repeats pledge to annex West Bank settlements and Jordan Valley, boasts of his relations with world leaders, saying that ‘peace agreements with other Arab countries is just a matter of time’; party faithful call for AG Mandelblit who indicted PM on corruption charges to ‘go home’
Ynet, News Agencies – https://www.ynetnews.com
Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in the Israel’s elections on Monday night, despite exit polls pointing to his right-wing bloc being below the 61-MK target he needs to form a government.
“What joy we have tonight,” he told supporters in Tel Aviv. “It’s a night of huge victory.”
The Likud leader also said that there would be more party Knesset members, as “we have significantly increased the Likud list.”
His supporters at the party’s headquarters chanted “Mandelblit go home,” a reference to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who has charged Netanyahu with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in a trial set to begin on March 17.
The prime minister also boasted of his relations with world leaders, saying that, “peace agreements with other Arab countries is just a matter of time – and not much.”
Israel has a peace agreement with Jordan and Egypt and low-key or unofficial ties with primarily Gulf states in the Arab world. Netanyahu has made developing relations with the Arab world a central feature in his election campaign, claiming to be the only one who can achieve this goal.
To a rapturous reception from supporters at the Likud campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu also reiterated his promise to annex the West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.
Israel went to the polls for the third time in less than a year on Monday, after two earlier rounds of voting left both the right-wing and center-left blocs unable to muster the 61 Knesset members needed to form a government.
As the exit polls released as the ballot closed at 10pm showed Likud on 36 or 37 seats in the 120-strong Knesset, Netanyahu tweeted out a simple “thank you” with a heart emoji.
Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc was uniformly predicted to take 59 seats, while the center-left bloc headed by Blue & White leader Benny Gantz was tipped to take just 55 seats.
Just moments after the exit polls were released, Netanyahu called the heads of the parties in his right-wing bloc and pledged to immediately start work on forming a government.
“This is clearly an achievement from Netanyahu’s standpoint but by no means is it a clear, decisive outcome that enables him to form a stable, functioning government,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute. “The country is heading toward constitutional uncertainty.”
Netanyahu’s defense minister and Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett called the night a victory for the right and reiterated his commitment to the bloc.
“The right has won, we will make sure that the path of the right also wins,” wrote Bennett on Twitter.
“As we promised, we will recommend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister. We are committed to the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu to establish a government that will continue to keep Israeli citizens safe, continue to provide support to IDF soldiers, protect the Land of Israel and the values of the right.”
Yamina co-leader Ayelet Shaked also took to Twitter to celebrate the right-wing bloc’s result.
“The religious-Zionist movement enlisted, with its thousands of activists, young and old, to this campaign with great determination. The Israeli democracy is strong and vibrant and the people have decided – a right-wing government with Netanyahu at the helm.”
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, also of Yamina, celebrated the results and called them a “great achievement.”
“This is a great evening for the State of Israel. I thank the thousands of sons and daughters of religious Zionism who took responsibility for the State of Israel and the right-wing bloc, flocked to the polls in droves and brought about a great achievement,” Smotrich said.
“This great spirit will be translated, with the help of God, into a national government that is good for Israel. Keep going forward with full force!”