In Brief

Benjamin Netanyahu tipped for fifth term as Israeli elections ‘tie’

Incumbent prime minister believed to have best chance of coalition government

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Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz appear tied in the Israel election, but Netanyahu has the clearest path to form a government, according to reports in the region this morning.

The Times of Israel say that with 97% of votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White party seem destined to get 35 seats each, but that “Netanyahu has a clear path to forming a right-wing government”. No party has ever won a majority in Israel's parliament and the country has always had coalition governments.

Both men have declared victory. Claiming a win that would see him serve for a record fifth term and break a record set by the nation’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu said his party had pulled off “a stupendous achievement” despite what he described as “a hostile media under impossible conditions”.

The incumbent vowed to be the prime minister “of all of Israel’s citizens, right wing and left wing, Jews and non-Jews alike”, he was clear that he would form “a right-wing government”.

Gantz described it as “an historic day”. He told his supporters: “In elections there are losers; in elections there are winners; and we are the ones who won.” 

The Blue and White candidate added: “We understand that we will wait for the real results, which will gradually develop in our favour as well, and we will work in the next few days on what is necessary so as to form as broad a government as possible.”

Once the official results are known, the president will consider which party has the best chance of forming a coalition. This can be a lengthy process: in 2015, it took Netanyahu more than a month to gather enough support to form a majority coalition of at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

During a hard-fought campaign, Netanyahu, 69, has been chased hard in the opinion polls by Gantz, 59, a former chief of the armed forces. The election has been increasingly seen as a referendum on the controversial Netanyahu, who is facing allegations of corruption, which he strongly denies.

Sky News says if even if, as is now expected, Netanyahu remains in power, the tight exit poll results “will be seen as a wound for the man who has led Israel since 2009”.

Israeli news site Ynet is already looking ahead to the next elections. “With indictments looming, it is likely that this will be the prime minister's final term – if he wins, making this election a test of who will succeed him and his Likud party as the de facto leaders of the right-wing.”

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