Israel's Netanyahu in talks to form fifth gov't coalition

An aerial view of a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem on 4 October 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue serving as the country's prime minister after winning Tuesday's election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main election challenger, the Blue and White party, on Wednesday conceded defeat in Israel's general election. "I'd like to congratulate him on a well-thought-out race", Trump said.

Calling Netanyahu a "great friend", Trump said: "I'd like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu".

"His Likud party looked set to finish with a similar number of seats in parliament to his main rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White alliance", Israeli media reported. Any concession to Palestine would likely bring objections from Mr Netanyahu's far-right coalition allies.

Final results were expected by Thursday afternoon, with ballots for soldiers and other special categories of voters yet to be counted.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said Israel is already fully aware of Germany's concerns about Jewish settlements on occupied territory.

The result was hailed by Donald Trump, who said the prime minister's victory meant "a better chance" for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but was met with dismay by Palestinians.

Second, the election confirms that the Trump administration will give both unstintingly and enthusiastically to the Israeli right.

Gantz, 59, had also claimed victory, citing preliminary exit polls which showed his party had won more seats than Likud.

"It is a night of colossal victory", the 69-year-old Netanyahu told cheering supporters in a late-night speech at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv after Tuesday's vote.

"He's a magician!", the crowd chanted.

So Mr Netanyahu, in trying to save his political life, has grown increasingly desperate. During his presidency Netanyahu faced possible indictment in three graft cases, CNBC reports, and has denied wrongdoing in all three.

Netanyahu's message of unity contrasted with his campaign theme in which he accused Gantz of conspiring with Arab parties to topple him.

He thanked the United States leader for his "great support for Israel", including the White House's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Though the Palestinian issue was rarely mentioned in the raucous campaign, Netanyahu in the final stretch pledged for the first time to annex parts of the occupied West Bank in a desperate bid to rally his right-wing base.

Palestinians seek a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Gantz stopped short of endorsing Palestinian statehood.

Challenged on election day, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, refused to say what the U.S. would do if the Israeli government tried to annex parts of the West Bank.

Analysts said the victory could strengthen his hand against the charges, with talk even of introducing a law that sitting leaders cannot be indicted until after their term ends.

Cavusoglu also called on the United States to be an "honest broker" in the Mideast dispute, saying a US peace plan for the region must be fair and objective toward Palestinians.

A close result in the election would put smaller parties in a powerful position, turning marginal political figures into kingmakers.

If confirmed, the results would enable Netanyahu to form the upcoming Israeli government. Netanyahu, however, has a clearer path to forming a coalition government with other far-right parties.

TRT World's Assed Baig explores the reason that Palestinians in Israel boycotted the vote.

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