Gantz Does Not Concede Elections

Gantz Does Not Concede Elections

Gantz Does Not Concede Elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing right-wing Likud Party appeared nearly neck and neck with his main centrist rival for seats in parliament on election day, varying exit polls indicated.

The Gesher, Zehut and far-right Hayamin Hehadash (New Right) parties did not reach the threshold of 3.25 percent to get a seat at the Knesset, early exit polls showed. The US president moved his country's embassy to the "undivided capital" Jerusalem and recognized the Golan Heights - annexed in 1981 - as Israeli territory, even though it clearly belongs to Syria under global law. Blue and White rejected the slur, Gantz was also cleared by an IDF inquiry.

Earlier Tuesday before there was a clear victor, Gantz and his No. 2, Yair Lapid, had proclaimed victory, urging Netanyahu to admit defeat.

Netanyahu and his main challenger Gantz were quick to claim victory in the elections.

According to preliminary results posted on Israel's Central Elections Committee website, 11, or possibly 12, of the whopping 40 parties which participated in the vote will enter the Knesset.

"I thank the citizens of Israel for the trust", he said, adding: "I will begin building a right-wing government with our natural partners tonight".

Netanyahu may have a win on his hands, but he now has to form a coalition government.

A spokesman for Mr Gantz's party declared: "We won".

Final results were expected by Thursday afternoon, with ballots for soldiers and other special categories of voters yet to be counted. Speaking to his Likud lawmakers on the day the election was called he said the outgoing government had "outstanding achievements" on which to campaign. The message was equally simple: Blue and White had been created to reclaim the state of Israel from Prime Minister Netanyahu.

"The coalition, it's not clear yet, because we need to see who are the parties that are in the game".

Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said Likud and Blue and White would have to learn the fate of smaller parties to know whether they had garnered enough support for a coalition.

The race between Gantz's and Netanyahu's coalitions attracted global attention.

Should his party form a coalition, Netanyahu would be on track later this year to become Israel's longest-serving leader, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion. 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke called Netanyahu a "racist" who has sided with a "far-right racist party" on Sunday.

With more than four million votes counted as of 9 a.m., Likud had snagged 26.27% of the vote, or 35 seats in the 120-seat legislature - the party's best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has been surrounded by scandals and ongoing investigations into his administration.

Even if Netanyahu's party Likud ends up 4-5 seats behind, Likud has more allies in the religious parties giving him a better chance of forming a government. He enjoys warm relations with President Donald Trump, who's delivered him jackpots like withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights captured from Syria in 1967.

He has sought to overcome Netanyahu's experience by allying with two other former military chiefs and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid to form his Blue and White alliance.

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