Trump hails Netanyahu for Israel election victory

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on course for a fifth term in office

His current government is already seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history, and his next is expected to be similar if not even further to the right.

Netanyahu said on Saturday that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he won another term in office. Netanyahu, who is most likely to be the new prime minister, succeeded in securing the votes of those settlers with a pledge that, if honoured, will sound the death knell of the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict (an idea only still formally defended by a tenth of Israel's parliamentary parties).

In a race that had been too close to call for most of Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared headed for a record fifth term Wednesday morning.

It also echoed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's tendency to blame the failure to achieve peace on the Palestinians, although Palestinians at first welcomed Trump administration efforts to broker a peace deal, until President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017.

It was not clear what he meant.

Commentators have said the looming prospect of indictments in several corruption cases against Netanyahu makes him vulnerable to demands for concessions from smaller parties in any coalition bargaining.

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange main indexes were up almost 1 percent in late trading on Wednesday, displaying confidence in a veteran prime minister who has overseen a humming economy and blunted various security threats, including from Syria. Netanyahu, along with Israeli politics, has drifted steadily to the right since he returned to power a decade ago and his increasingly hard line has reduced opportunities to find common ground with Palestinians.

That vacuum has been filled by the Blue and White alliance, a coalition that purports to represent all views on the political spectrum - the name is from the Israeli flag, which is blue and white - that is headed by Benny Ganz, the former chief of general staff of the Israeli Armed Forces.

"This is a night of great victory".

The combined total of seats projected for Likud and what Netanyahu calls its "natural partners" among the right and religious Jewish parties adds up a comfortable 65 seats - a workable 5-seat majority.

Although the ballot count is complete, commission head Hanan Melzer said the results were not official and still subject to review. In one of the president's only non-ceremonial roles, he asks that leader to form a government within 42 days. The president will then hold negotiations on building a coalition with that candidate, presumably Netanyahu.

Rivlin said he would begin consultations with party leaders next week ahead of making his decision.

"We put together an operation that contributed crucially to one of the most important achievements of the right-wing bloc: keeping the Arab vote legal", the PR company, Kaizler Inbar, wrote in a Facebook post, accompanied by a picture of firm executives alongside Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

Netanyahu, speaking Tuesday night, declared it a "tremendous victory" for his party. Netanyahu defended the practice, saying cameras helped guarantee a "legitimate" vote.

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