Israelis vote in repeat election centered on PM Netanyahu

Israelis vote in repeat election centered on PM Netanyahu

In an apparent setback for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime Israeli leader on Tuesday fell short of securing a parliamentary majority with his hard-line allies in national elections, initial exit polls showed, putting his political future in question.

After Israel's longest serving prime minister failed to build the necessary coalition in Parliament and form a government after elections in April, Netanyahu called for another one just one month before he's to face legal proceedings for bribery and breach of trust.

All parties have warned supporters that low voter enthusiasm and turnout was a risk - and perhaps it was having an effect. There were concerns that in this second election turnout might drop, but that does not seem to have happened. It marked more than a 2 percent increase over the figure at the same time in April.

The final opinion polls put his right-wing Likud party neck and neck with its main challenger, the centrist Blue and White party led by former military chief Benny Gantz. He maintains that he is innocent of all charges.

Supporters wave flags during an election rally for Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, in Kfar Ahim, Israel.

US President Donald Trump has said that Israel's general election race will be a tight one.

"In the short period that has passed since the April 9 elections, the number of eligible voters has grown by nearly 1 per cent", the CEO of the Central Elections Committee, Orli Adas, said.

Last Thursday, the chat bot was suspended for 24 hours after it was found to have violated Facebook's hate-speech policy. Netanyahu is going to need two coalitions: "a narrow coalition that will free him from the legal proceedings against him; and a broader coalition that will allow him to govern", he writes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, address the media during a joint press conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Many Arab voters boycotted the vote to protest divisions within the Arab political leadership as well as anger toward Netanyahu, whom they accuse of incitement. Gantz hoped the Blue and White would have a decisive victory and claim more seats than Likud, potentially giving them the floor even if his coalition was smaller.

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"My husband voted Bibi because he's insane about him", said personal trainer Adina Yisacharoff, using Netanyahu's nickname. Netanyahu's Likud held an edge of just 14,500 votes, a result on which both parties hope to improve. "So, I guess I am a Bibi girl after all". The only cabinet member who opposed it at the time was Netanyahu's then-defense minister, Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon, who has since parted ways with Netanyahu and is now a top Blue- White candidate. "He's suspected in several corruption cases, and I think he's becoming more and more extreme".

Whether Arabs turn out to vote "which they didn't do last time".

"Netanyahu has lost, but Gantz hasn't won", said Udi Segal, a prominent Israeli television news anchor.

"Citizens of Israel, we find ourselves at the high point of a historic change in the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel", the 69-year-old prime minister wrote in the Maariv newspaper on Monday.

A large Arab turnout would make it harder for Netanyahu to get to the magic number of 61 seats for a majority.

He has also pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and a swathe of land known as the Jordan Valley (which comprises about 30% of the West Bank).

His "make Israel normal again" slogan refers to what the staunch secularist says is the undue influence of ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties on the country's politics.

Many believe that if he wins, Netanyahu could seek to have parliament grant him immunity from prosecution ahead of a possible corruption indictment in the weeks ahead.

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