Israel's Netanyahu appears poised for re-election, projections show

Left Retired Israeli general Benny Gantz right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Left Retired Israeli general Benny Gantz right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Millions of Israelis are at the polls in the country's first general election since 2015.

At the same time, Israel's Channel 12 and Channel 13 both updated their exit polls, giving Likud a 35-34 seat lead over Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

Both Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, a former military chief of the Blue and White party, had declared victory in speeches Tuesday evening in front of crowds of their supporters as polls closed and results showed a neck-and-neck finish.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Twitter he would begin meeting next week with political parties that won parliamentary seats to hear who they support for the top job.

Earlier, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he would wait for the final results and then attempt political maneuvers. "Elections have losers and elections have winners".

Mr Netanyahu tweeted: "The right-ring bloc led by Likud triumphed conclusively".

Netanyahu's office issued a statement Wednesday saying Trump "warmly congratulated" Netanyahu, who thanked the president for his "great support for Israel", including the White House's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

"I want to make it clear, it will be a right-wing government, but I intend to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens, right or left, Jews and non-Jews alike", he said.

When the sun rose this morning, however, it looked like Netanyahu was going to squeak through with a win and the ability to form a coalition government.

Trump urges investigation of FBI actions
Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I don't trust Barr, I trust Mueller". Apparently referring to those behind the report, he said, "what they did was treason".

Israel's attorney general has recommended indicting him on bribery and breach of trust charges in three separate cases. "We all need to think about how we can work together, how we can bring everyone into the discussion", he said.

The results do not include the votes of soldiers, prisoners and diplomats, which are expected to be counted by Thursday afternoon and could affect the numbers. If it's even closer, we won't know for several days. Now he's set to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel's 71-year history. Coalition talks are already underway, but it could take weeks for Netanyahu's discussions with his various allies to produce a working government, The Guardian noted.

"I'd like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu", said President Trump after almost complete results put the incumbent premier in position to form a coalition.

Rivlin told voters as he cast his ballot in Jerusalem that "the only ones that will determine who will be prime minister, and what the next government will be, are you". But Netanyahu was in a stronger position to form a coalition government with the anticipated support of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, Likud's natural allies.

In showcasing his close ties with Mr Trump during the race, Mr Netanyahu sought to tap into the president's popularity among Israelis, who delighted in his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and the subsequent transfer of the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

People don't call Benjamin Netanyahu "the magician" for nothing.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat lamented that the Israelis voted to maintain "the status quo". "They asked for a different path, and we showed them the way".

His comments stand in contrast to his appeal to voters in the final days of campaigning when he sought to solidify his conservative base, vowing to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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