Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory after a tight national election appeared to give him the upper hand in forming the country’s next coalition government.
In a statement released on Twitter, Netanyahu says that “against all odds” his Likud party and the nationalist camp secured a “great victory.”
CCTV America’s Roee Ruttenberg reported from Washington, D.C.
Netanyahu declares victory in Israel electionsCCTV America's Roee Ruttenberg reported from Washington, D.C.
Initial exit polls showed Netanyahu’s Likud Party deadlocked with the center-left Zionist Union.
But the results indicated that Netanyahu will have an easier time cobbling together a majority coalition with hard-line and religious allies.
Netanyahu said he had already begun to call potential partners.
Netanyahu on Tuesday had made a list-ditch appeal to hard-liners as the country went to the polls in a tight parliamentary election, saying that high Arab voter turnout was endangering his right wing party’s dominance.
Opinion polls had shown a close race heading into the vote, with Netanyahu’s opponents, led by Isaac Herzog of the centrist Zionist Union, in a slight lead. The last available poll was published Friday, when a significant number of voters were still undecided, meaning the race was still too close to call.
But amid signs that his six-year reign could be in jeopardy, Netanyahu has veered sharply to the right in the closing days of the campaign. On Tuesday, he reiterated a pledge to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state — backtracking from six years of his own policy and putting him at odds with the United States and other Western allies.
At midday, Netanyahu claimed high Arab voter turnout was putting his right wing Likud Party’s rule “in danger,” according to a posting on his Facebook page. “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves. Left wing organizations are bringing them in buses,” he said.
A new joint list of Arab parties, unifying four factions, has energized Arab voters and is poised to make big gains in the race.
Wadea Awawdeh, a resident of the Arab town of Kfar Kana, said Netanyahu “cannot hide his racist feelings toward the Arabs” anymore. “Netanyahu is angry because he feels he is losing. It’s another indication he is losing in the elections and losing his patience,” said Awawdeh.
Herzog — Netanyahu’s main challenger — has promised to revive peace efforts with the Palestinians, repair ties with the U.S. and reduce the growing gaps between rich and poor.
“Whoever wants to follow (Netanyahu’s) path of despair and disappointment will vote for him,” Herzog said after casting his vote. “But whoever wants change, hope, and really a better future for Israel, will vote the Zionist Union led by me.”
Report from The Associated Press
Middle East expert Matthew Brodsky discusses Israel’s general election
For more on Israel’s general election and the vote results, CCTV America interviewed Matthew Brodsky, Middle East expert and senior analyst at Wiki-strat.