Israel has voted Benjamin Netanyahu in for a record fifth term after a close race between his incumbent Likud party and the opposing Blue and White party (known as Kahol Lavan in Israel). Early polls from the election indicated an almost 50/50 split in the vote, with the parties neck and neck at 37 seats. Both Netanyahu and blue and White Leader Benny Gantz claimed victory. However, it has now become clear if he is able to form a coalition with a smaller party, Netanyahu will have the edge. The results show a public not quite fatigued by the leader, who has been in power since 2009.
After the election, Benny Gantz said: ”We all accept the nation’s decision, we all respect and accept the president’s decision and whatever comes of it.”
He said the elections “mainly herald the size of the expectations outside – not just for the names Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, or [Moshe Ya’alon].
“They’re searching for another way, a different language, a different connection.”
His second-in-command Yair Lapid said the party would carry on, and this year was only the start for Kahol Lavan.
He said: “We didn’t win in this round. We will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition.
“We will demand an official investigation and we will not let up on the investigation into Netanyahu.
“We will show the citizens of Israel how their lives could look with leadership that cares about them.
“We did not come here in order to end our 2019 campaign, we came to begin our 2020 election campaign.”
Officials are yet to count all ballots cast in the election, as votes cast at military bases will be counted over the coming days.
President Reuven Rivlin will then choose the party best suited to form a majority government.
Israel has always operated on coalition governments, as no party has ever gained a majority in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset.
Mr Netanyahu seems most likely to be able to form the coalition needed for a government.
Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have said they would back Netanyahu, along with the Union of Right-Wing Parties and centre-right Kulanu party.
Together this would give the Prime Minister an extra 17 seats and net Likud the majority.
Mr Netanyahu promised although the government would be right-wing, he will govern for “all of Israel’s citizens.”
He said: “I intend to be the prime minister of all citizens of Israel. Right, left, Jews, non-Jews.”