Israeli exit polls show Netanyahu edging ahead of rival

Arturo Kim
April 12, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was projected to win a fifth term in office on Wednesday, after almost complete results from Israel's general election put him in position to form a rightwing coalition, media reports said. The prime minister met with Trump in the White House March 25, during which Trump said the US would recognize Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. Gantz said he favors a "globally backed peace agreement" that envisions Israel maintaining its hold on the large settlement blocs in the West Bank and security control over the territory.

Netanyahu campaigned on his foreign policy victories and close relations with world leaders - Trump in particular.

Even before the polls opened, many analysts gave Netanyahu the best chance of garnering the support of his fellow lawmakers and these predictions now seem to have come to pass, even though he is facing bribery and fraud indictments.

But the former army chief's subdued tone differed starkly from his victory speech late Tuesday, when exit polls showed the rivals in a dead heat. PA sources say that they have no practical ways to prevent this.

Two exit polls predicted a parliamentary majority for a Netanyahu-led bloc of rightist parties.

Senior PLO official Saeb Erekat expressed this view when the final results of the elections were announced by stating, "The Israelis have voted "no to peace" to preserve the current situation". "The fact is that it will be very hard for the Kachol Lavan party (the Blue and White, named after the colors of the Israeli flag), the only clear slogan of which was "We are ready for anything, but not with Netanyahu", to abandon its beliefs and make an alliance with Netanyahu".

Netanyahu has called the Israeli probes a "witch hunt", echoing his good friend, U.S. President Donald Trump, who used the same words to describe the investigation of his 2016 election campaign.

As a result, it will nearly certainly be Netanyahu who is called upon by President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government.

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He said that according to the laws of Israel, if no party gains an absolute majority of votes (61 mandates) following the election, the country's president will order one of the parties with the most votes to form a government.

(Trump's approval rating past year stood at 69 percent, a boost fueled at least in part by his decision to move America's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.) The prime minister even approved a billboard in Tel Aviv showing himself shaking hands with the president in order to tout their close relationship. He said he had already begun talks with prospective coalition allies.

The prime minister has served for roughly 13 years, in stints from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 until the present.

In a rare turn during the race towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr Netanyahu further alarmed Palestinians by pledging to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon weighs in on what it Benjamin Netanyahu's likely reelection means for the U.S.

"Everybody said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians".

"They got such a big number of votes through the statements against Netanyahu".

"This is a clear beginning of Netanyahu's fifth term, but his fifth term might end up being his shortest one", said Reuven Hazan, a political scientist from Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

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