With some 99 percent of the votes counted by early Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party appeared set to win a resounding victory in the general election, with 30 seats, compared to the Zionist Union’s 24.

The results came as something of a shock, after exit polls published Tuesday night showed a stronger showing for Zionist Union and Meretz. As votes were counted through the night, however, Likud’s decisive victory became clearer. The final results will be announced Thursday morning, marking the official start to coalition jockeying.

Meanwhile, the US expressed concern over Netanyahu’s comments on Arab voters and a Palestinian state.

The Times of Israel blogged developments as they unfolded Wednesday.

Blog is now closed

Victorious Netanyahu begins coalition arrangements

Israel awakens to see that the TV exit polls last night were uniformly wrong. Likud and Zionist Union did not tie in these elections; Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud won by a decisive six-seat margin with almost all votes counted.

The Likud party announces that the prime minister has spoken to the party leaders with whom he hopes to form a coalition — Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman, Moshe Kahlon, Arye Deri, and Yaakov Litzman.

If these parties agree to team up with Netanyahu, he would have a coalition of some 67 seats, based on the current count.

The prime minister says he hopes to form a coalition in the coming two-to-three weeks.

Yachad 12,000 votes short of threshold

Eli Yishai’s right-wing Yachad party is 12,000 votes short of the electoral threshold, Ynet reports.

Yachad chairman Eli Yishai and extreme Right politician Baruch Marzel, seen during a discussion in the Central Elections Committee in the next Knesset, on February 12, 2015. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Yachad chairman Eli Yishai and extreme Right politician Baruch Marzel, seen during a discussion in the Central Elections Committee in the next Knesset, on February 12, 2015. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Herzog, Livni report ‘difficult morning’

The Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni say in a statement that this is “a difficult morning for us, and for those who believe in our vision.”

The party says it will continue “to fight on behalf of the citizens of Israel for social justice, diplomacy, equality and democracy, with hope and faith, in order to uphold a Jewish and democratic state that is safe and just.”

In this Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 file photo, Israeli politicians Isaac Herzog, right, and Tzipi Livni listen during a tour along the Israel and Gaza Strip border.  (photo credit: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File )

In this Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 file photo, Israeli politicians Isaac Herzog, right, and Tzipi Livni listen during a tour along the Israel and Gaza Strip border. (photo credit: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File )

PM says he’s ‘serious’ — Kahlon

Moshe Kahlon confirms that he spoke to the prime minister, and says Netanyahu insists “his intentions are serious.”

Kahlon reiterates that he will wait for the final results before starting coalition negotiations, but adds that he is pleased with the results. He says his party won’t compromise on its demands.

Moshe Kahlon address the hundreds of his supporters who gathered in northern Tel Aviv to celebrate his Kulanu party winning an expected 10 Knesset seats on Mar. 17, 2015. (Photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Moshe Kahlon address the hundreds of his supporters who gathered in northern Tel Aviv to celebrate his Kulanu party winning an expected 10 Knesset seats on Mar. 17, 2015. (Photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Before the election, Netanyahu repeatedly promised to make Kahlon finance minister — a key post the ex-Likud minister had set his eyes on. But Kahlon at the time said he didn’t believe Netanyahu, since the prime minister made promises in the past and didn’t follow through.

MK says ZU will ‘serve country from opposition’

Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir says the party “will serve the country from the opposition.”

Labor MK Stav Shaffir, during a Finance Committee meeting regarding changes to the 2013 budget on Tuesday, December 24, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

Labor MK Stav Shaffir, during a Finance Committee meeting regarding changes to the 2013 budget on Tuesday, December 24, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

Current results in charts

Results of the 20th Knesset with 99 percent reporting

Results of the 20th Knesset with 99 percent reporting

Results of the 20th Knesset with 99 percent reporting

Results of the 20th Knesset with 99 percent reporting

PLO to discuss cutting security cooperation

The PLO Executive Committee, headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, will convene tomorrow to discuss how to implement its decision to end security cooperation with Israel.

The meeting was scheduled before the results of the election were released.

However, no dramatic decisions are expected until the next coalition is formally announced.

A Palestinian official says Netanyahu’s victory will facilitate the Palestinian efforts to appeal to the international community, in light of the Netanyahu’s staunch opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Avi Issacharoff

New York Times bashes PM’s ‘racist rant’

In a strongly worded editorial, the New York Times opposes Netanyahu’s recent rejection of Palestinian statehood, and his “concern” on Tuesday about high turnout rates among Arab Israelis.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outright rejection of a Palestinian state and his racist rant against Israeli Arab voters on Tuesday showed that he has forfeited any claim to representing all Israelis,” it writes.

“His behavior in the past six years — aggressively building Israeli homes on land that likely would be within the bounds of a Palestinian state and never engaging seriously in negotiations — has long convinced many people that he has no interest in a peace agreement. But his statement this week laid bare his duplicity, confirmed Palestinian suspicions and will make it even harder for him to repair his poisoned relations with President Obama, who has invested heavily in pushing a two-state solution.”

Netanyahu’s “outrageous appeal” to right-wing voters on the Arab Israeli vote “added to the ugliness of the campaign,” the editorial says.

Read the full editorial here.

Record-breaking number of female MKs

Based on the present results, more women will serve in the Knesset than ever before.

Some 28 women are slated to enter the 20th Knesset, up slightly from 27 in the 19th Knesset. The 18th Knesset had 21 female Knesset members.

The Likud list has six female candidates, the Zionist Union has eight, the United (Arab) List has two, Yesh Atid has three, Kulanu has four, the Jewish Home has one, Yisrael Beytenu has two, and Meretz has two.

Herzog calls Netanyahu, concedes defeat

Herzog phones Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory.

Speaking to reporters outside his home, Herzog says he respects the nation’s decision, and vows to keep working to resolve Israel’s economic and political challenges.

“I wished him luck, but let it be clear, the problems are the same problems, nothing has changed,” he says, adding that the Zionist Union will continue to serve as “an alternative [to Likud] in every area.”

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog makes a point during a press conference in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog makes a point during a press conference in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

UTJ to demand concessions to draft law

United Torah Judaism celebrates what it says is the “downfall” of its main rivals — Lapid, Liberman, and Bennett.

The Haredi party is set to demand concessions to the ultra-Orthodox draft law as part of a coalition agreement.

Overnight Tuesday, MK Moshe Gafni says: “Liberman, who was responsible for many things, fell. The Jewish Home, which also didn’t like us, and did not cooperate with us from the get-go — also received a blow, and Lapid, who was finance minister and responsible for the draft law and all the decrees, also fell, and this shows that ‘the way of the wicked does not succeed,'” the Kikar HaShabat website reports.

Yisrael Beytenu received six seats, the Jewish Home got eight, and Yesh Atid dropped to 11. Netanyahu has listed the Haredi party among his potential coalition partners.

MK Yaakov Litzman promises to demand concessions on the draft law, but does not elaborate. The demands will likely focus on the criminal sanctions to be levied against yeshiva students who do not enlist.

MK Yaakov Litzman speaks during a Knesset session in 2007 (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

MK Yakov Litzman speaks during a Knesset session in 2007. (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Blocs no bigger than before

Although the election has been declared a resounding victory for Israel’s right-wing parties, the bloc (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-Jewish Home) receives only one more mandate than in the 2013 election, with 44 overall.

In 2013, the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu alliance garnered 31 seats, and the Jewish Home got 12 (a total of 43).

The left-wing bloc (Zionist Union and Livni-Meretz) also saw only a slight increase, climbing from 27 to 28. The centrist bloc (Kahlon-Yesh Atid in 2015; Yesh Atid-Kadima in 2013) remains the same with 21 mandates.

The Joint [Arab] List adds three more seats to the Arab bloc, from 11 in 2013 (between the various Arab parties, and Hadash) to 14 in this election.

The ultra-Orthodox bloc (Shas-UTJ) is dealt a blow, dropping from 18 seats in 2013 to 13 now, in part due to the split-off Yachad party, which does not pass the electoral threshold.

Further minor fluctuations are still possible as the last votes are being counted.

Yachimovich questions campaign tactic

The Zionist Union’s Shelly Yachimovich expresses “bitter disappointment” and “shock” over the election results.

“It may be that we need to go back to running campaigns based on that simple thing called ideology,” she tells the Ynet news website.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich  (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Zionist Union campaign concentrated much of its efforts on discrediting Netanyahu, under the slogan “It’s us or them” — a slogan that was also adopted by Netanyahu’s Likud.

Ex-Meretz head says party ‘too good for state’

Former minister Yossi Sarid — an ex-Meretz party leader — tells the Walla news website the left-wing party “is probably too good for you, too good for the state.”

Sarid says the right-wing government “will likely bring several disasters upon us along the way — and not too far in the future.”

He urges Herzog not to enter a unity government with Likud.

Meretz received four seats in the election, according to a near-final count. Party leader Gal-on says she will quit if Meretz does not receive five seats by the final tally.

Liberman wants Defense Ministry

Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman tells Ynet that he will demand the defense portfolio in exchange for joining Netanyahu’s coalition.

“Our demands are clear, we never hid them and put it in writing, and it includes the defense portfolio,” he says. “We don’t want to be the opposition, but we also won’t [simply join the] coalition at any cost.”

Liberman praises Netanyahu for the “extraordinary and impressive achievement.”

Foreign Minister  Avigdor Liberman speaks to Channel 2 Friday, January 16, 2015. (Photo credit: Channel 2 screenshot)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to Channel 2 Friday, January 16, 2015. (Photo credit: Channel 2 screenshot)

‘Israelis chose occupation, racism’ — PLO

The Palestinians slam Israelis for voting for Netanyahu’s Likud party, saying they had chosen “occupation and settlement building” over peace talks.

“Israel chose the path of racism, occupation and settlement building, and did not choose the path of negotiations and partnership between us,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo tells AFP.

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Abed Rabbo speaks to journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 16, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Abed Rabbo speaks to journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 16, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

AFP

Yesh Atid MK says party headed to opposition

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelach says it’s unlikely his party will join the coalition.

“I assume we’re going to the opposition,” he tells Walla.

MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) seen during the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset, during the committee's vote on a new chairman, on Monday, May 12, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) seen during the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset, during the committee’s vote on a new chairman, on Monday, May 12, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

29% increase in number of Arab MKs

According to the Israel Democracy Institute, 17 Arab MKs are set to enter the Knesset, as compared to 12 in 2013.

Four of those Knesset members are on the Likud, Zionist Union, Yisrael Beytenu, and Meretz slates.

Seventeen Arab MKs set to enter 20th  Knesset (photo  credit: Courtesy/Israel Democracy Institute)

Seventeen Arab MKs set to enter 20th Knesset (photo credit: Courtesy/Israel Democracy Institute)

What the left can learn from the election

ToI’s Haviv Rettig Gur outlines the lessons Israel’s left-wing parties can — and should — glean from their unexpected defeat.

He writes: “The despair emanating from left-wing voters and pundits is misplaced. The left did better in this election than it has done in a long time. But the left has spent almost two decades essentially writing off the electorate as too benighted, too trapped in fear or hate to be worth seriously campaigning for. That, at least, has been the explanation of left-wing media outlets such as Haaretz over the years for Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued triumphs at the ballot box. The path to reclaiming an electorate one has ridiculed and despised for so long is a hard one. But, alas, the left will not actually lead Israel without the support of a majority of Israelis. Isaac Herzog is the first leader of the left in quite a few years who seems to understand that.

“One of the more long-term questions that arise from this race is whether the left will be able to use this loss as a catalyst for future victory. If, as has been its wont, the left falls back on its traditional rhetoric depicting Netanyahu’s Israel as wracked by famine, poverty and war, and facing imminent collapse, then it will be setting itself up for continued failure. Such talk is hard to take seriously when battling an election; it would be truly dangerous to take it seriously after losing one. The left now needs to build on its success, find new constituencies, develop a ‘ground game’ not just in the two months before an election, but in the three years that separate them. Despair will not get it from where it is now to where it needs to be to win.”

Full analysis to come.

Iran says all Israeli parties are ‘aggressive’

Responding to the election results, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham says all Israeli political parties have an “aggressive nature,” Press TV reports.

“The Israeli parties are the same and they are all accomplices in their crimes against the Palestinians and in their acts of aggression,” she says.

Zionist Union to hold meeting

The Zionist Union will convene at 4 p.m. at its Tel Aviv headquarters to discuss the outcome of the election.

Herzog and Livni will speak to the press before the meeting.

Likud wins Jerusalem, Zionist Union takes TA

Likud is the most-voted party in: Jerusalem (24%), Rishon Lezion (29%), Netanya (33%), Holon (31%), Eilat (35%), Kiryat Shemona (38%), and the main cities in the south battered by last summer’s war — Ashdod (31%), Ashkelon (39%), Beersheba (37%), and Sderot (42%).

The Zionist Union beats out Likud in Tel Aviv (34%), Caesarea (37%), Raanana (32%), and Haifa (25%). Herzog was also far more popular than Netanyahu in the war-torn kibbutzim along the Gaza border, receiving 53% of the vote in the region, as compared to 6% for Likud.

A truck with placards bearing the image of Likud party leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drives down a street in the southern city of Sderot (photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

A truck with placards bearing the image of Likud party leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drives down a street in the southern city of Sderot (photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

Herzog, Livni discuss defeat at the beach

Channel 2 tweets a photo of Herzog and Livni and their spouses discussing the election over breakfast at the beach.

Marzel vows to hound Zoabi from outside Knesset

Yachad’s Baruch Marzel tells Ynet that he will “wipe Hanin Zoabi’s smile off her face from outside [the Knesset], just like we did at the Ramat Gan election conference.” The ultra-nationalist candidate, whose party failed to cross the electoral threshold thus far, is referring to an incident several weeks ago during which a right-wing activist hurled a drink at the controversial Arab MK.

“I will continue to chase her down from anywhere, because she is endangering the State of Israel,” he says.

Marzel also condemns the Joint (Arab) List results, which gave the party 13 seats.

“Half a million citizens who want to eradicate the State of Israel will be represented in the next Knesset. This is something that should set off warning bells for everyone. We will deal with them; we won’t let any political terrorist stop us,” he says.

Right-wing politician Baruch Marzel at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem February 17, 2015. (Photo credit:Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Right-wing politician Baruch Marzel at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem February 17, 2015. (Photo credit:Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Kerry declines to comment on elections

US Secretary of State John Kerry refuses to comment on the Israeli elections, Israel Radio reports.

Kerry is offered the opportunity to comment by journalists in Switzerland, where he is engaged in negotiations on the Iranian nuclear negotiations ahead of the March 31 deadline.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his plane as he arrives in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday March 15, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Brian Snyder, pool)

US Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his plane as he arrives in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday March 15, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Brian Snyder, pool)

Gulf official says PM won because of Iran fears

An unnamed Gulf official tells Reuters that Netanyahu’s win is due to Israelis’ concern over the Iranian nuclear program.

“With Iran emerging again, it was highly expected that Netanyahu would win,” the unnamed official says.

“He’s a man who believes strongly in protecting his people, and this is what Israel wants now.”

EU foreign affairs chief looking forward to new peace talks

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini sends a message of congratulations to Netanyahu, saying she looks forward to working with the incoming Israeli government on the “re-launch of the peace process.”

“The EU staunchly supports a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the interest of the Israeli people, of the Palestinian people and of the whole region. We are at your side, you can count on us,” she says.

“More than ever, bold leadership is required from all to reach a comprehensive, stable and viable settlement of a conflict that has already deprived too many generations of peace and security. It’s time to turn this page and I’m confident that we can work together with the international community for a solution that will guarantee peace and security in the Middle East.”

Federica Mogherini speaks with journalists prior to an Informal Meeting of EU Defense Ministers in Riga, Latvia on February 18, 2015. photo credit: AFP/ILMARS ZNOTINS)

Federica Mogherini speaks with journalists prior to an Informal Meeting of EU Defense Ministers in Riga, Latvia on February 18, 2015. photo credit: AFP/ILMARS ZNOTINS)

Pollster denies coordination by networks

Prof. Camil Fuchs, in charge of Channel 10’s exit polling, denies that there was any coordination between the various channels’ pollsters, Israel Radio reports.

Fuchs does admit that there were rumors floating around of the other networks’ results before they came out, but nothing beyond that.

Channels 1, 2, and 10, all had similar findings, with Likud winning 27-28 seats, and Zionist Union 27. The actual count, with nearly all votes tallied, give Likud 30 and Zionist Union 24.

US media tries to comprehend results

American news outlets were surprised by the outcome of this week’s elections, ToI’s Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil reports, with some networks forced to reverse their headlines once results started coming in.

Many outlets turned the focus to the implications of Netanyahu’s win, especially on his ostensible turn to the right in the days leading up to the election.

The New York Times editorial board excoriates Netanyahu for his “outright rejection of a Palestinian state and his racist rant against Israeli Arab voters on Tuesday showed that he has forfeited any claim to representing all Israelis.”

Many predicted that relations between the White House and Jerusalem will get worse, especially if the PM keeps to his campaign promises.

Haredi rabbis push off meeting on UTJ future

The Agudath Israel Council of Torah Sages, a central faction in the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, is pushing off today’s meeting in which leading rabbis were slated to discuss whom they would recommend for prime ministership, the Haredi website Kikar Hashabat reports.

They are expected to convene within the next few days.

Both the Zionist Union and Likud called UTJ leader Yaakov Litzman in an attempt to win his support.

Litzman says that the UTJ’s price is a rolling back of laws enacted by the last government aimed at bringing Haredim into the army and work force.

The UTJ’s Degel Hatorah faction is also meeting to decide on whom to recommend.

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset, September 15, 2014 (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset, September 15, 2014 (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

 

Netanyahu visits Western Wall

After his surprise victory, Netanyahu makes the trip to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, saying he “feels honored by the responsibility that the Israeli people placed on my shoulders.”

“I deeply value the decision by Israeli civilians to choose me and my colleagues against all the odds and against major forces,” he says, hinting at foreign actors he criticized for trying to oust him from power.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, a day after the Israeli general elections, March 18, 2015. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, a day after the general elections, March 18, 2015. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Erekat says PM’s ‘apartheid’ campaign worked

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat says that Netanyahu’s election win shows the success of a campaign based on “settlements, racism, and apartheid,” and denying rights to the Palestinian people, Reuters reports.

Saeb Erekat (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

Saeb Erekat (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

Republican Jewish Coalition lauds election

Republican Jewish Coalition chief Matt Brooks congratulates Israel on its election, saying, “Democracy won in a region plagued by failed states, rogue regimes and terrorism. This is a win for the world.

“Given the consequential issues facing the voters of Israel, such as a nuclear Iran and Israel’s security in a troubled region, they chose Netanyahu to lead them forward despite some international opposition. The RJC looks forward to continuing its work to enhance and strengthen American-Israeli relations.”

Ex-IAEA chief says Israel chose occupation

Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief and ex-Egyptian VP Mohamed ElBaradei says Israeli voted for occupation on Tuesday, thus dashing hopes for a peace process.

Leading Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei (photo credit: AP/Thomas Hartwell/File)

Mohamed ElBaradei (photo credit: AP/Thomas Hartwell/File)

Arab League dismisses PM’s two-state remarks

The Arab League head dismisses as electioneering Netanyahu’s vow to rule out a Palestinian state if reelected, saying there would be global pressure for a peace deal.

Netanyahu’s statements would “not be the policies of the future Israeli government,” says Nabi Arabi, secretary general of the 22-nation bloc in an interview with AFP, adding: “We will have to wait and see.”

“I believe personally that he made that statement about… no two states to gain the votes of the extremists, particularly those Russian immigrants who went to Israel in the last 10, 15 years,” Arabi says.

— AFP

Pollsters try to explain mistaken results

After exit polls turned out to be off by up to three seats for the Likud and Zionist Union factions, senior Israeli pollsters explain in Haaretz what went wrong and their reactions to the results.

Channel 10 pollster Camil Fuchs says he only heard about the results Wednesday morning, after which he “thought he was dead,” both because he was backing Herzog and because he realized that he had failed professionally.

Fuchs also noted that exit polls picked Shimon Peres in 1996 when Netanyahu turned out to be the winner, but the results were much further off this time.

Illustrative photo of a voting station in Israel (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of a voting station in Israel (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Channel 2’s Mina Tzemach says that the press misunderstood the polls by looking at the gap in mandates between Likud and Zionist Union, whereas the polls give forecasts for each party separately.

“According to this, we were not so far off. We said on Channel 2 that Likud will get 28 mandates and it received 30, and we said the Zionist Union received 27 mandates and it got 24.”

Her polls were perfect in predicting the order of the parties by mandates, Tzemach emphasizes.

Both pollsters also blame the fact that their exit polls closed before the voting stations did, and Likud received many late votes.

Fuchs also blamed the voters, saying some refused to talk to the press, and others lied to pollsters.

Powerful US senator praises elections

US Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, congratulates Netanyahu and Herzog on their election campaigns.

“The oldest and most stable democracy in the Middle East has once again gone through a hotly contested election and will peacefully form a new government. We congratulate Mr. Netanyahu on his victory and Mr. Herzog on his competitive run, and we look forward to continuing to build on our mutual interests,” says Corker.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, left, D-NJ, talks with ranking member Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 29, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, left, D-NJ, talks with ranking member Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 29, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Indian PM congratulates Netanyahu in Hebrew

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world’s largest democracy, takes to social media to congratulate Netanyahu, even tweeting in Hebrew, “Mazal tov, my friend. I remember our nice meeting in New York last September.”

Liberman still demanding Defense Ministry

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman is demanding the post of defense minister as his price for joining a coalition despite a paltry showing in elections, the NRG news site reports.

Liberman will choose representatives to negotiate with Likud as he flies abroad after the elections.

Yisrael Beytenu won only 6 seats in the elections. After the results were announced, Liberman spoke with Netanyahu, but refused to commit to supporting him for prime minister.

Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Herzog rules out unity government

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog says he will not sit in a unity government, and will instead lead the opposition.

Zionist Union party co-leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni greet supporters at the party's election headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

Zionist Union party co-leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni greet supporters at the party’s election headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

Opposition only realistic option, says Herzog

“Going into opposition is the only realistic option facing us,” a spokeswoman quotes Isaac Herzog as telling a meeting of his Zionist Union party.

Kerry calls Netanyahu to congratulate him

US Secretary of State John Kerry calls Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory, Channel 2 reports.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, center, greets audience members before speaking to a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh Friday, March 13, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Brian Snyder, Pool)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, center, greets audience members before speaking to a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh Friday, March 13, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Brian Snyder, Pool)

The fight is not over, says Livni

Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni says “the fight is not over yet,” after her faction says it will not join a unity government.

“We cannot give up. We must fight for our way, also in opposition,” she says.

J Street says results will add to Israel’s isolation

US liberal Jewish group J Street expresses disappointment over Netanyahu’s victory, blasting his renunciation of the two-state solution and resort to a campaign grounded in “fear and tinged with racism”.

The statement also claims that Netanyahu did not win a broad mandate to lead.

“The policies that the prime minister articulated in order to win — outright rejection of the two-state solution and territorial compromise — should and will be rejected by the international community, including the United States.

Sadly, the results of this election will only deepen Israel’s growing isolation,” J Street adds.

Likud says Ya’alon, not Liberman, will get defense post

Senior Likud sources tell the NRG news site that Avigdor Liberman is not going to get the defense minister post, despite his demands.

“He will not be defense minister. There is a coalition and a right-wing majority without him. Ya’alon will remain defense minister and we suggest that Liberman understand his new position.”

Rivlin to meet with party heads Sunday

President Reuven Rivlin says he will start meeting with faction heads on Sunday.

Harel Tubie, Director General of the Office of the President, sends out a letter inviting them to meet with Rivlin, after which the president will task someone — likely Netanyahu — with forming the next government.

“In accordance with Article 7 of the Basic Law on Government, President Reuven Rivlin will hold a round of consultations with representatives of the lists of candidates elected to the new Knesset, and shortly thereafter will bestow the task of forming the government upon one of the Members of Knesset,” the letter reads.

“In coordination with Chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Hon. Judge Salim Joubran, it is the President’s intention to open the round of consultations already at the beginning of next week, out of an effort to conclude the process of establishing the new government as early as possible – in order to ensure the citizens of Israel have the assurance of a fully functioning government, in the face of the present challenges which lie before the State of Israel.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin casts his vote at a polling station in Jerusalem on March 17, 2015. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin casts his vote at a polling station in Jerusalem on March 17, 2015. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

US to ‘evaluate’ stance after Netanyahu rules out Palestine

State Department spokesman Jen Psaki says that Netanyahu’s comments on a Palestinian state mean that “the US is in a position going forward in which we will be evaluating our approach to achieving a two-state solution.”

She also did not rule out rescinding its UN Security Council veto against anti-Israel resolutions.

“The fact that (Netanyahu) has changed his opinion certainly
has an impact,” Psaki adds.

US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki (screen capture: YouTube)

US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki (screen capture: YouTube)

Psaki says the US and Israel will continue their close military, intelligence and security cooperation.

She adds that “we don’t think that his win has impacted the Iran negotiations or will.”

— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil 

Republicans laud Netanyahu’s victory

GOP lawmakers congratulate Netanyahu on social media.

House speaker John Boehner, who invited Netanyahu to address Congress at the beginning of the month, says he looks forward to continuing the “strong bond” between the two countries.

Freshman Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, she of castrating pigs fame, calls the result a “historic victory.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee calls the result an “incredible victory for the people of Israel and for all who love freedom and democracy across the globe.”

US ‘deeply concerned’ over comments on Arab voters

The White House gives a tepid acknowledgement of Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection on Wednesday, stressing that his election pledge to block the creation of a Palestinian state runs against US policy.

After an election campaign that was marked by open hostility between Obama and Netanyahu, the White House says the president had not yet called the prime minister to congratulate him.

Instead, that job was left to Secretary of State John Kerry. “The president in the coming days will also call Prime Minister Netanyahu,” says White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, on Monday, August 25, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, on Monday, August 25, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The White House says that security cooperation between the US and Israel would continue, but Earnest adds that “it continues to be the view of the president that a two-state solution is the best way to address those tensions.”

“In the context of the recent election Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated a change in his position, based on those comments the United States will evaluate our approach to the situation.”

The White House also castigates Netanyahu’s Likud party for urging supporters to match a large turn out by Arab Israelis.

“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned by decisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest says.

“It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.

“And I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.”

— AFP

Paul Ryan says WH treatment helped PM win

Prominent GOP Congressman Paul Ryan tells Fox & Friends that “the Obama administration helped contribute to his victory because of the way they treated him.”

“It helped him consolidate his coalition so that he could have this landslide victory, and I’m pleased to see it happen,” Ryan explains.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, listens as vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at a rally at the Randolph Macon college in Ashland, Virginia, Saturday. (photo credit: AP/Mary Altaffer)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, listens as vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at a rally at the Randolph Macon college in Ashland, Virginia, in 2012. (photo credit: AP/Mary Altaffer)

UK alarmed by PM’s ‘sabotage’ of two-state solution

Uk Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond tells the UK’s Jewish News that he is concerned by “what looks and feels like a deliberate attempt to sabotage the two-state solution” by Netanyahu.

He also says that he hopes the comments against a Palestinian state could be seen “in the context of a man who is behind in the polls.”

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond speaks during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 24, 2014, at the Knesset. (photo credit:  AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON)

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond speaks during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 24, 2014, at the Knesset. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON)

“If he leads the next government, we would expect him to recommit to a constructive engagement around the principle of a two-state solution. We would expect that but the United States would expect that – and that’s an influence no Israel prime minister can afford to ignore,” says Hammond.

“Often it’s those who look least committed to a course of action that are most able to deliver it. If Herzog were to form the next government he would come with an agenda which on the face of it appeared more open to forward movement on a settlement. He might actually find it more difficult to deliver. Netanyahu, if he was really committed to doing something, may find it easier to bring that to fruition.”

Jewish Federations congratulates PM

Michael Siegal, chair of Jewish Federation of North America’s Board of Trustees, sends congratulations to Netanyahu: “On behalf of Jewish Federations throughout North America we congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The high voter turnout and vibrant campaigning were demonstrations of the robustness of Israel’s democratic system. We also congratulate all of those who were elected to the Knesset yesterday. We are looking forward to working with the future government.”

Shas’s Deri taunts Lapid, Yishai

During a meeting of Shas MKs-elect, party leader Aryeh Deri says that “everyone who pursued us and all those who tried to make us disappear, to weaken us — there are now taking stock of how much they lost by,” according to the Ynet news site.

“Yair Lapid had 19 mandates and went down to 11. I suggest that everyone take out a calculator and [see] what percentage he lost… I don’t want to count other parties who spoke all lofty. Where are they today?”

Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, Jerusalem, December 30, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, Jerusalem, December 30, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Turning the conversation to rival Eli Yishai, who founded the breakaway Yachad party, Deri says, “Shas was free from controversy, pure, holy. It was based on Torah and spirituality. But unfortunately Rabbi Eli Yishai contaminated it with what he did with controversy and gossip.”

Deri does not say which ministries Shas will demand, but says he will ask for ministries that will allow him to keep his promises on welfare and social services.