Israel election: Netanyahu poised to form new right-wing coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on election night early

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on election night early

Yair Lapid, the party's No. 2 figure, told a press conference Wednesday that though his party "did not win in this round, I respect the voters".

The Blue and White party, headed by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, drew even with Netanyahu's Likud party, but the incumbent prime minister is poised to form a government with his larger bloc of religious and nationalist allies.

President Donald Trump, who Netanyahu featured on campaign billboards to highlight their close relationship, phoned to congratulate him on his re-election, the Israeli leader said, adding that he thanked his American ally for "tremendous support for Israel". "I'd like to congratulate him on a well-thought-out race". He faces possible indictment in three graft cases, and has denied wrongdoing in all of them. Earlier that night, Gantz had claimed victory. Assuming Mr Netanyahu, 69, survives in office into the summer he will become the country's longest-serving leader, surpassing David Ben-Gurion, since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

"The United States is with him and the People of Israel all the way!" he said.

Despite the loss, he said he was satisfied with the votes his party achieved weeks after its formation.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory improved the chances of a forthcoming USA peace plan, despite deep skepticism from the Palestinians.

Merkel warns European Union is likely to agree to lengthy Brexit delay
European Union leaders are expected to offer the prime minister an extension until December or even March next year. The Prime Minister's agreement is required for any change to the Brexit date to be finalised.

Trump had welcomed Netanyahu to the White House just two weeks before the election to offer his latest landmark gesture of support - US recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967.

"Regrettably, Israelis overwhelmingly voted for candidates that are unequivocally committed to entrenching the status quo of oppression, occupation, annexation, and dispossession in Palestine and escalating the assault on Palestinian national and human rights", Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement Wednesday.

Netanyahu said on Saturday that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he won another term in office.

The Palestinians demand a full return to the borders that existed before the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The last round of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Trump is expected to release his administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan after the election. "They have simply not succeeded", he said.

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