For the outgoing prime minister, this was "biggest win of my life". As head of government, he is in a stronger position ahead of his corruption trial. With ballots still being counter, Likud and allies have 59 seats, two short of a majority in the Knesset. For Palestinians, annexation and settlements have won.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Israel's third general election in less than a year, calling yesterday’s outcome “the biggest win of my life".
In his victory speech, he said “we plowed the country from north to south," noting that “Israeli citizens trust us because they know that we have brought the best decade in Israeli history."
For Netanyahu, this victory is much more. In a few days, 17 March, he is due to go on trial for corruption, and the win could mean his political survival.
If this happens, Netanyahu would become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister with more than ten years as head of the government.
Trailing behind the centrist Blue White alliance led by Benny Gantz in the weeks leading up to the vote, the Likud leader made a comeback that surprised analysts and experts.
With 70 per cent of ballots counted, the Central Elections Committee gives the Likud 28.7 per cent of the vote, which translates into 37 Knesset seats out of 120: 61 are needed for a majority.
The Blue White alliance comes in second with 23.3 per cent for 32-33 seats. Avigdor Lieberman’s party appears to have won seven seats.
With his hard-line right-wing allies, Netanyahu could reach 59 seats, two short of a majority. For the centre-left bloc, the most optimistic estimate is 53 seats, including the Arab parties.
Now, everyone is waiting for the official tally, expected by tomorrow morning.
As the outgoing prime minister, Netanyahu can benefit from having the largest bloc in Parliament, which gives him the right to form a new government, one that is even more tilted to the right.
If this fails, the country can expect another deadlock, the third in the past few months, with more political uncertainty on the horizon.
Netanyahu can attribute his electoral victory, if that is the case, to his foreign policy successes, starting with the so-called Agreement of the century, i.e. Donald Trump's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, praised by the Israelis and bluntly rejected by Palestinians and pro-human rights groups.
Palestinians are particularly concerned about the Israeli election. The exit polls show that “that settlement, occupation and apartheid have won the Israeli elections,” tweeted Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO),
For Erekat, who is an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the future includes more “occupation and conflict” with “annexation” as the next step.