Benjamin Netanyahu will remain the Prime Minister of Israel.
Both Netanyahu and his opponent Benny Gantz initially claimed victory in the Knesset elections, but after the votes were counted Gantz conceded that he didn’t have the numbers to form a coalition government.
At 5am Thursday morning (Australian time) 97 per cent of the votes were counted and there was a dead-heat between Likud and Blue and White, with 35 votes each.
But the right bloc, which includes Shas, Kulanu, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu and United Right, has 65 seats while the centre-left bloc has only 55.
Gantz said he respected the decision of the people while his Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid said “we didn’t win in this round, we will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition”.
US President Donald Trump called Netanyahu from Air Force One to congratulate him.
“He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend,” Trump said.
“I’d like to congratulate him on a well-thought-out race.”
As Israel finishes counting the votes, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the Governor General this morning and then formally announced an Australia Federal Election will be held on May 18.
3 facts you need to know
Blue and White says it’s not breaking up
There are already suggestions that Blue and White could break up now that it failed to unseat Netanyahu. But Benny Gantz said there is no truth in “strange rumours.” He said: “This is just my first day in the next decade of service to Israeli society, in any way I can, and with all my strength.” His political partner Yair Lapid promised to become an effective force in the opposition and said that he’s already beginning a campaign to defeat Netanyahu in an election next year.
Bennett’s gamble backfired
Naftali Bennett abandoned the Jewish Home faction to set up his New Right party, hoping for a big success at the election. But as results currently stand, he didn’t get a single Knesset seat. This could change if soldiers votes, which are still to be counted, boost his statistics
Everyone is waiting for the President
Nobody will be formally tasked with building a coalition until President Rivlin has met representatives of every Knesset party. Rivlin announced he will start the consultations next week, and will then judge who is best placed to build a government and give this politician up to 42 days to build a government.