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  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overlooks construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overlooks construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank. | Photo: EFE

Published 3 March 2020
Opinion

The results mean that Netanyahu is two seats short of the needed votes to form a majority coalition in Israel's 120-seat parliament.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party gained 36 seats in Monday's parliamentary elections, becoming once again the largest party, the Central Elections Committee said Tuesday after 97 percent of the votes have been counted.

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Figures by the Committee, which oversees the elections, showed Netanyahu's main rival, Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue and White party, garnered 32 seats.

The Likud and its allies, a bloc of a pro-settler party and two Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties, won 59 seats, according to the latest count.

The results mean that Netanyahu is two seats short of the needed votes to form a majority coalition in Israel's 120-seat parliament.

Netanyahu already claimed victory late on Monday night, after exit polls indicated a firm majority by his right-wing party over Blue and White.

With only two seats away from securing the majority, the Likud has launched campaign to convince lawmakers with parties of the center-left bloc to "cross the lines" and join independently a future Likud-led right-wing coalition.

"There are talks with several lawmakers with parties from the other political bloc and they had understood that Gantz could not form a government," Likud spokesman Jonatan Urich told Channel 13 TV news.

"We have talked with between four and six lawmakers," Urich added.

He estimated that the Likud will recruit the lawmakers needed to secure a majority "very soon" and will announce a new coalition.

Gantz, Israel's former military chief, has not conceded defeat yet.

Early on Tuesday morning, he pledged to press ahead and called on his supporters to wait for the final results, suggesting Blue and White might be part of a unity government.

Netanyahu is facing a criminal trial scheduled to begin on March 17, in which he is indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Should Netanyahu establish a new government, he will become the first incumbent prime minister under a criminal trial in the history of Israel.

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