Netanyahu's historic win gives him the mandate he wanted

Netanyahu's historic win gives him the mandate he wanted

Netanyahu's historic win gives him the mandate he wanted

Likud's main rival in the election, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, won 25.94% of the vote, which would also give it 35 seats, but had insufficient support from other parties to prevent Netanyahu staying in power for what will be a fifth term.

With more than four million votes counted as of 9 a.m.(Israeli time), Likud had snagged 26.27 per cent 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. Depending to which parties the rest of the votes land, Gantz may still have a shot to have enough seats to form a left-wing coalition.

At the end of it all, almost every right-wing Israeli party declared that they will recommend him to President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government. Netanyahu, however, has a clearer path to forming a coalition government with other far-right parties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to be the president's choice.

The closely contested race was widely seen in Israel as a referendum on Mr Netanyahu's character and record in the face of corruption allegations.

Earlier while addressing cheering supporters who waived Israeli flags at an event hall in Tel Aviv, Gantz called it a "historic day".

Gantz told reporters Wednesday that the broad support for his centrist Blue and White party proves "the people want a different way and we are going to deliver it".

(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.

Earlier, Netanyahu said U.S. president Donald Trump had called to congratulate him on his election win from Air Force One.

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The ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism each won eight seats.

Should Mr Netanyahu retain the helm, he will in July become the longest-serving Israeli prime minister, overtaking the country's founding father, David Ben-Gurion.

"Look, everyone said - and I never made it a promise - but everybody said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians", Trump said.

- Hadash, headed by Ayman Odeh, is a secular Arab-led party with communist roots that ran with Ahmed Tibi's Taal.

- Opinion polls had shown Moshe Feiglin's Zehut party winning at least five seats on its motley platform of Jewish religious nationalism, libertarianism and marijuana legalisation but it failed to pass the threshold. Fighting for his political life, Netanyahu spent the weeks ahead of the vote campaigning furiously to energise his right-wing base.

- The attorney general however has announced his intention to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending a hearing, with proceedings set to begin in the coming months.

The last round of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Some votes - including of soldiers, diplomats, and prisoners - have yet to be counted because they cast their votes in unusual circumstances that take longer to be counted.

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange main indexes were up almost 1 percent in late trading on Wednesday, displaying confidence in a veteran prime minister who has overseen a humming economy and blunted various security threats, including from Syria.

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