Netanyahu's main rival party admits defeat in Israeli elections

Benjamin Netanyahu's rival party concedes Israeli election

The Democratic lawmakers' statement comes as Israel faces growing criticism within the party, with presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke both attacking Netanyahu as an extremist and pledging a new approach if elected.

With the final results expected by April 17, Netanyahu, if re-elected, is expected to start his fifth term as prime minister and become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel's history.

The poor showing by their New Right party, which had been projected to be a major potential coalition partner, was one of the upsets of the election.

Netanyahu will rely in part on politicians of the nationalist right opposed to a Palestinian state to put together his government.

Netanyahu said on Saturday that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he won another term in office. For Palestinians there, that could mean the end of a decades-long struggle for a state of their own. Likud had 30 during the 20th Knesset, whilst the only party represented from the Blue and White alliance was Yesh Atid, with 11 Knesset members.

Gantz did not call Netanyahu to concede directly, but said he "accepted he decision of the nation".

As some leaders around the world on Wednesday congratulated Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his likely re-election after tight-raced parliamentary elections, Syria and Palestine showed indifference towards the outcomes. "Look, everyone said - and I never made it a promise - but everybody said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians". In recent weeks, Trump tweeted that Israel should claim sovereignty over the Golan Heights, land seized from Syria during the war with Arab countries in 1967, and days before the election, the USA government declared the Iran Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, a decision that delighted Netanyahu and his hard-line supporters.

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The election was seen as a referendum on the veteran prime minister, who has built a reputation as guarantor of Israel's security and economic growth, but whose divisive right-wing populism and alleged corruption led to calls for change.

Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, and his wife Revital cast their ballots as Israelis began voting in a parliamentary election, at a polling station in Rosh Ha'ayin, Israel on April 9, 2019.

"This is a night of great victory". The final result depended on the votes of soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and hospital patients who vote in unusual circumstances.

His office said the consultations would be broadcast live in their entirety for the first time.

Maariv daily, citing an unnamed senior official, said Rivlin could suggest Netanyahu and Gantz agree to form a national unity government.

"We will continue to serve the citizens of Israel, and I wish you and all of Israel a happy [upcoming Passover] holiday", Gantz told Netanyahu, according to a readout provided by a Blue and White spokesperson.

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