JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu falls behind in securing a parliamentary majority with his religious and nationalist allies in national elections on Tuesday, first exit polls show, setting the stage for a period of coalition negotiations that could threaten his political future and paved the way for him to be tried on corruption charges.
Initial results posted by three major television stations in Israel presented the challenging Benny Gantz sentrist Blue and White party tied or with little lead in Netanyahu's Likud. While the ults did not guarantee Gantz would be the next prime minister, they signed that Netanyahu, who has ruled the country for more than 10 years, could have trouble keeping jobs.
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Addressing his supporters Wednesday, Netanyahu refused to argue defeat and vowed to work to form a new government that did not include Arab parties. His campaign focused heavily on attacking and questioning the integrity of the Arab minority of the country – a strategy that drew allegations of racism and incitement from Arab leaders.
"In the coming days we will gather negotiations to bring together a strong Zionist government and prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government," he said. He said the Arab parties were "neglecting Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state" and "glorifying bloodthirsty killers."
Israeli polling exits are often incorrect, and the final results, expected Wednesday, may still fit in Netanyahu's favor. But all three stations predicted similar outcomes.
According to polls, either Likud or Blue and White, along with their smaller allied allies, could not control a majority in the 120-seat parliament without the support of Yisrael Beitenu's Avigdor Lieberman party. This put Lieberman, a former Netanyahu's protester who had become one of the prime minister's fierce rivals, in the kingmaker's position.
The Arab parties, who have not yet been seated in an Israeli government, also ended strong, and polls predicted. they will form the third largest party in parliament.
Addressing his supporters on Tuesday, a jubilant Lieberman said he saw only "one option:" a broad, secular coalition with the Blue and White and Likud.
"We've always said that a united government is only possible in emergency situations. And I tell you and I say to every citizen today watching us on television: the situation, both wise security and economical, are emergency situations, "he said. "Therefore, the country needs a broad government."
Early Wednesday, Gantz said at an ardent rally of supporters that as he neared to declare victory, he began speaking to potential partners and hoped to form a coalition government.
"Starting tonight we will work to build a united government that will express the will of the people," he said.
The Israeli president Reuven Rivlin will now focus on choosing the candidate he believes. has the best chance of forming a stable coalition. Rivlin has to consult with all parties in the coming days before making his decision. If that fails, Rivlin could provide another candidate for prime minister 28 days to form a coalition. And if that doesn't work, new elections are triggered again. Rivlin said he will do everything possible to avoid such a scenario. But such a deal promises to be complicated.
Gantz, a former military leader who has presented himself as a unified figure in a divided country, has ruled out a collaboration with Likud if Netanyahu stays at the helm at a time when he is expected to be indicted on criminal charges.
But in his speech, he did not perform those conditions. "I intend to talk to everyone," he said, without mentioning Netanyahu.
Lieberman, who led a nationalist but secular party, was unlikely to sit in the Arab left-wing or ultra-Orthodox right-wing religious parties. 19659009] That may limit both Gantz and Netanyahu's ability to maneuver and may force the long-standing leader, who has ruled for more than a decade, to step down.
Likud members stated that they remained behind their leader.
"We have a principal who is the party leader who is elected to the party, so why not take action against Netanyahu," said lawmaker Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu loyalist.
Netanyahu sought a true majority. along with his allies in hopes of passing the law to give him immunity in anticipation of the indictment.
An Israeli lawyer has been recommended to charge Netanyahu with bribe, fraud and breach of trust in three scandals, awaiting a scheduled ringing next month. A formal claim would have put pressure on Netanyahu to step away if he had no safety.
Netanyahu tried to portray himself as a seasoned businessman uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times in an alert campaign marked by mourning and slogans condemned as racist. Gantz tried to paint Netanyahu as a divisive and ongoing scandal, offering himself a calming influence and honest alternative.
The Netanyahu campaign promoted images of him traveling the chapters of the world and boasting warm relations with powerful leaders, most notably President Donald Trump.
At the same time, he issued repeated cautionary warnings on the day his opponents were plotting politicians from the Arab minority of the country to "steal" the election.
He tried, and failed, to pass legislation that would allow cameras at polling stations, a move he said was necessary to crack down on alleged fraud in Arab towns. Facebook suspended its account for 24 hours last week after it published a post saying "Arabs want to destroy us all." of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
His proposal, which could quench any remaining hope for a Palestinian state, was condemned by most of the world, including important Arab countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But the US remained muted, suggesting he had contacted Washington early on.
Netanyahu's frenetic warnings about Arabs have arisen in the backfire, killing several Jewish voters and driving a heavy turnaround in the Arab sector.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the main Arab faction in parliament, said Netanyahu's repeated attacks had boosted the attack and hurt Netanyahu in the end.
"There's a heavy price to pay for persuasion," he told Channel 13 TV.
The election is Israel's second. during the year.
In the April elections, Netanyahu appeared in the upper hand, with his traditional allies of the nationalist and ultra-religious parties controlling a parliamentary majority.
But Lieberman, his reluctant ally, turned down. to join the new coalition, citing the overwhelming influence it has placed on ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Without a parliamentary constituency, Netanyahu abolished parliament and called for a new election.
Lieberman's gamble paid off on Tuesday, and exit polls suggested his party was nearly double in strength, up to ten seats.
The Israeli election commission says 69.4% of all eligible voters cast ballots by polling time closed on Tuesday night, a slightly larger number than those taking part in April's vote. Turnout in the April election was 68.5%.