Three days after the election and the day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive electoral victory over Benny Gantz was confirmed by a completed vote count, the Blue and White chairman phoned the Likud leader Friday morning to congratulate him.
Gantz indicated in what was apparently a very brief conversation that he had wanted to wait with the call until the Central Election Committee announced the final results, which it did late Thursday night.
“With the end of the vote count and the announcement of final results, I congratulate you on the achievement in the elections. 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.
“Thank you, I wish you a happy holiday. We will restore calm to Israel, each in his own capacity. Have a good Sabbath,” Netanyahu responded, recognizing the heated nature of the campaign in a readout of the short conversation released by Likud.
Netanyahu was confirmed Thursday night as the big winner of the general elections, when the Central Elections Committee published the completed tallies of Tuesday’s election, a full 60 hours after the polling stations closed.
With all of the votes counted, checked and rechecked, Netanyahu’s Likud party edged past its rival Blue and White party with 26.45 percent of the vote to win 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, gaining one more seat in the adjusted final tally. Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White faction was confirmed at 35 seats, 26.11% of ballots.
The prime minister is expected to be tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a coalition next week.
Gantz and his Blue and White colleagues have vowed to serve in the opposition after conceding the race on Wednesday evening.
The former IDF chief of staff gave a premature victory speech on Tuesday night after one exit poll showed his party poised to possibly unseat Netanyahu’s Likud, though two other exit polls predicted a fairly straightforward path to victory for the incumbent. Gantz vowed to “be the prime minister of everyone and not just those who voted for me… We all need to think about how we can work together, how we can bring everyone into the discussion.”
In his victory speech about two hours later, Netanyahu said he would build a right-wing coalition, but would aim to be the prime minister of all Israelis, right and left, Jewish and non-Jewish.