Israel's president: Talks about PM choice to begin Monday

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

The new centrist Blue and White alliance put together by ex-military chief Benny Gantz will finish with a similar number of seats to the Likud even though it came together less than two months before the polls. "We will make the Knesset (parliament) a battlefield". 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 US government declared the Iran Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, a decision that delighted Netanyahu and his hard-line supporters. The president was on a flight to Texas.

David Makovsky, director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told NPR Netanyahu would likely hold off on annexation as a favor to Trump, pending the peace proposal. "He's been a great ally and he's a friend".

"The hope or yearning for peace is foreign to them", said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank in Jerusalem, told the Journal. Palestinians, angered by what they see as Trump's pro-Israel bias, have called it a non-starter. In one of the president's only non-ceremonial roles, he asks that leader to form a government within 42 days. He faces possible indictment in three graft cases, and has denied wrongdoing in all of them.

The right-wing party captured 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, said the Yediot Aharonot daily, citing data from the Central Elections Committee.

Speaking in the early hours of Wednesday at the Likud's post-election party in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu called it a "magnificent victory".

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"He's a magician!" the crowd chanted as fireworks flared and Netanyahu kissed his wife Sara.

Gantz's alliance, which conceded defeat on Wednesday night, however could not peel away enough right-wing votes to unseat Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said he would build a right-wing coalition, but would aim at inclusiveness to be the prime minister of all Israelis, right and left, Jewish and non-Jewish. That could be scuppered if criminal charges are filed and force his removal. But with the backing of other right-wing parties, the continued decimation of once powerful Labour and the Israeli Arabs winning a mere ten seats, he could well be in an unassailable position to change the map of the Middle East. Voters blamed divisions between Arab factions which had united in the previous election, disillusionment, and a voting boycott campaign rooted in dismay at the 2018 "nation-state" law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in Israel. For Palestinians there, that could mean the end of a decades-long struggle for a state of their own. Netanyahu defended the practice, saying cameras helped guarantee a "legitimate" vote. We are talking about no less than 400 settlements (housing at least 400,000 settlers), all deemed illegal under worldwide law, as they violate the law of occupation.

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.

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