After close Israeli election, Benny Gantz’s party concedes defeat

After close Israeli election, Benny Gantz’s party concedes defeat

After close Israeli election, Benny Gantz’s party concedes defeat

In a twist of fate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hometown of Caesarea was won by Benny Gantz's Blue and White party while the Likud is leading in Gantz's hometown of Rosh Ha'ayin, according to Army Radio.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on track for victory in Israel's election on Wednesday after almost complete results put him in position to form a right-wing coalition and further extend his long tenure in office.

After declaring victory early in the night, Gantz's Blue and White party watched as the numbers turned against them in a knife-edge vote. Gantz's Blue and White party said in a statement.

"He's a magician!" the crowd chanted as fireworks flared and Netanyahu kissed his wife Sara.

- Outgoing finance minister Moshe Kahlon, who split from the Likud to form Kulanu ahead of the 2015 election, largely supports Netanyahu's positions while putting more of an emphasis on social issues.

With almost all votes in Israel's general election counted, here is the preliminary distribution of seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament, according to Israeli media calculations.

Besides Trump, other Netanyahu allies including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz offered congratulations.

"The skies may look overcast. but they can not hide the sun of hope that we have brought to the Israeli people and society", Gantz, 59, wrote in an open letter.

Regardless of who becomes the next prime minister, the election has already proven to be a humbling setback for Mr. Netanyahu, 69, who has built a strong economy, kept the country safe and has been promoted by President Trump.

The degree of harm which Mr Netanyahu will wreak in his fifth term is yet to be determined.

During the campaign, the rival parties accused each other of corruption, fostering bigotry and being soft on security. Legal experts expect at least some charges to be filed. Allies could even try to enact legislation protecting Netanyahu from prosecution as a sitting leader.

Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to portray himself as Israel's essential statesman.

In the final stretch of the campaign, Netanyahu had for the first time pledged to annex parts of the occupied West Bank in a desperate bid to rally his right-wing base.

Israel's economy grew almost 75 percent during Netanyahu's decade in power, expanding even during the global recession, though the gains haven't done much to close the gap between rich and poor.

This pre-election promise from Mr Netanyahu was widely seen as an attempt to draw right-wing votes rather than a change of policy. Trump announced he would reveal a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East shortly after the elections. But with Trump's moves on Jerusalem and the Golan, the prime minister may feel emboldened to advocate annexation.

The Palestinians have reacted to the results by saying that Israelis voted to "maintain the status quo" in the region.

Khalil al-Hayya said Wednesday that "there is no difference" between the Israeli parties, and pledged that Gaza's militant Hamas rulers would continue seeking to "end the occupation and achieve our national goals".

Gantz said he favoured a "globally backed peace agreement" with Israel holding on to the large West Bank settlement blocs, adding that he opposed unilateral moves.

Netanyahu faced further criticism on election day when members of his Likud party brought small cameras into polling stations in Arab areas.

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