With 96% of vote in, Netanyahu has clear path to fifth term as PM
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Likud says it won full mandate, will go 4 years with right-wing government

Lapid, Gantz concede defeat, vow to turn Knesset into battlefield from opposition; Liberman warns he could go to opposition; final votes waiting to be counted

  • Benny Gantz reacts as he appears before supporters at the alliance headquarters in Tel Aviv on April 10, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
    Benny Gantz reacts as he appears before supporters at the alliance headquarters in Tel Aviv on April 10, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces his wife Sara amid confetti during his victory speech before supporters at Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv after April 9, 2019's elections. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces his wife Sara amid confetti during his victory speech before supporters at Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv after April 9, 2019's elections. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
  • US President Donald Trump speaks to the press and congratulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory, prior to departing on Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 10, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
    US President Donald Trump speaks to the press and congratulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory, prior to departing on Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 10, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
  • Likud Party campaign material and posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strewn on the floor following election night at the party headquarters Tel Aviv, April 10, 2017. (Jack GUEZ/AFP)
    Likud Party campaign material and posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strewn on the floor following election night at the party headquarters Tel Aviv, April 10, 2017. (Jack GUEZ/AFP)
  • President Reuven Rivlin (L) meets with Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, the head of the Central Elections Committee, in Jerusalem on April 10, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin (L) meets with Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, the head of the Central Elections Committee, in Jerusalem on April 10, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
  • URWP leaders Rafi Peretz (L) and Bezalel Smotrich arrive at an election results party in Kfar Maccabiah on April 9, 2019. (Nachshon Pillipson)
    URWP leaders Rafi Peretz (L) and Bezalel Smotrich arrive at an election results party in Kfar Maccabiah on April 9, 2019. (Nachshon Pillipson)

The Times of Israel liveblogged fallout from Israel’s election as it unfolded Wednesday.

With 96% of vote in, Netanyahu has clear path to fifth term as PM

With some 96% of votes counted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party appear on track to get 35 seats each, but Netanyahu has a clear path to forming a right-wing government.

The results give Likud 26.47%, just slightly ahead of Blue and White on 26.11%

According to the count, the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and UTJ will get 8 seats each. The Arab Hadash-Ta’al and Labor get six each. Yisrael Beytenu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties get 5 seats, and Kulanu and Meretz 4 seats.

The big change of the last hour being the second Arab party Ra’am Ra’am-Balad just reaching the 3.25% threshold, which will give them 4 seats.

These results give the right and religious bloc 65 seats, while the center, left and Arab parties have 55.

US looking forward to maintaining good ties with any new government

The US State Department says it is confident that any government that is formed in Israel will continue the close relationship between Israel and the US.

A spokesperson tells Israel’s Kan public broadcaster that even though results are not final, the US is confidant the two countries will have a very close partnership.

The spokesperson notes that the US has had a very close relationship with all Israeli governments since the founding of the State of Israel.

After 97% votes counted, second Arab party safely crosses threshold

The big change of the last hour is that the second Arab party Ra’am Ra’am-Balad is at 3.45%, well past the 3.25% threshold, which will give them 4 seats.

With some 97% of votes counted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party still appear on track to get 35 seats each, but Netanyahu has a clear path to forming a right-wing government.

The results give Likud 26.28%, just slightly ahead of Blue and White on 25.97%

According to the count, the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and UTJ will get 8 seats each. The Arab Hadash-Ta’al and Labor get six each. Yisrael Beytenu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties get 5 seats, and Kulanu and Meretz 4 seats.

New Right was still not in with just 3.14%

These results give the right and religious bloc 65 seats, while the center, left and Arab parties have 55.

 

Officials now counting votes of soldiers, diplomats

With some 97% votes counted, the Central Election Committee has started counting the so-called double envelope ballots, cast by soldiers in their bases and diplomats overseas.

The vast majority of these are the votes of soldiers, which traditionally skew to the right and could change the make up of the next government.

The biggest influence will likely be over two parties hovering around the election threshold.

New Right is currently not making it into the Knesset, polling at 3.14%, but is hoping soldiers’ votes will push it beyond 3.25%.

The Arab Ra’am-Balad party is at 3.45%, but unlikely to garner many of the soldiers votes and could still fall out of the race.

Counting the double envelopes is a slow task with officials having to make sure they did not vote on their bases and again at their homes and is expected to be completed by Wednesday afternoon.

Results indicate fewer women lawmakers in upcoming Knesset

With a picture forming of the next Knesset, it appears that there will be fewer female lawmakers in the upcoming session.

If the current results — after 97% of the votes counted — remains, there will be 28 female lawmakers, down from 33 in the last Knesset.

This would end a trend of increasing female representation in recent years.

Only one party, Meretz, would be headed by a woman.

Feiglin holds out hopes soldiers’ support will push him into Knesset

In a Facebook post all but conceding defeat, Moshe Feiglin of the Zehut party, which will fail to cross the electoral threshold despite high hopes, blames his poor results on other parties ganging up on him.

“What the hell is the connection between Kulanu, Shas and UTJ? What is the common gripe they have together against Zehut, a problem that’s much bigger than the demographic and ideological gaps between them,” he writes.

He also holds out hope that the votes of soldiers that have yet to be counted will propel him above the 3.25% threshold.

While his pro-pot party is expected to perform well among voting troops, his current tally of of just over 100,000 votes would mean he would need the support of some 40,000 soldiers to make it in, an extremely unlikely prospect.

 

Few in Gesher go for Gesher

In the small kibbutz of Gesher, south of the Sea of Galilee, the Gesher party does slightly better than the national average, getting 3.44 percent, or 9 votes. Much of the kibbutz votes for Blue and White (38.5%) and Labor (35.8%).

Nationally, the socio-economic minded upstart party manages just 1.74%, well below the Knesset threshold.

Likud wins in Gantz’s hometown, Gantz wins in Netanyahu’s

In Benny Gantz’s working class hometown of Rosh Ha’ayin, his party is lagging slightly behind Likud 33.9% to 34.8% or about 300 votes.

In ritzy Caesarea, which Netanyahu calls home when he’s not prime minister, Blue and White trounces Likud 52.6% to 24%.

URWP’s Smotrich chides Bennett over ‘dangerous’ New Right gambit

Union of Right-Wing Parties #2 Bezalel Smotrich tells Channel 12 news he heoped New Right managed to cross the threshold, but chides the parties leaders for “endangering” the bloc by splitting off of Jewish Home to form their own faction.

“It was a mistake” by them, he says.

New Right needs about 4,300 of the few remaining votes to be counted in order to sneak into the Knesset, and is hoping to find that support among soldiers.

Smotrich says he will legislate a way for extremist Itamar Ben Gvir, #7 on the list, to enter the Knesset, despite the party only getting 5 seats.

New Right still ‘confident’ it will pass threshold

New Right party officials believe that the party will still muster enough votes to pass the electoral threshold and even end up with five Knesset seats.

It is currently a few thousand votes away from crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold, which would give it four seats.

A party official tells The Times of Israel that the it’s senior echelons are “confident” that the votes from soldiers, currently being counted, will give the New Right “more than enough” to secure a place in parliament.

The party says that once that happens, they believe they will get a further boost from the vote sharing agreement with Yisrael Beytenu.

— Raoul Wootliff

New Right needs roughly 4,300 votes to squeak into Knesset

With just over 95% of the vote counted and some 100,000 ballots remaining, the New Right party needs just 4,300 to cross the electoral threshold.

Left to be counted are the votes of IDF soldiers, who New Right co-head said last night would deliver for his fledgling party, as well as the ballots of diplomats from overseas and diplomats.

While the Union of Right-Wing Parties, Meretz and Ra’am-Balad are currently projected to squeak into the Knesset, each only has 16,700 votes, 15,700 votes and 12,300 votes respectively more than the 3.25% required to make it into parliament.

With over 97% seat count remains static, with 65 seats for the right-wing bloc

With 97.4% of the vote counted, the seat count remains as it was:

Likud: 35
Blue and White: 35
Shas: 8
United Torah Judaism: 8
Labor: 6
Hadash-Ta’al: 6
Union of Right-Wing Parties: 5
Yisrael Beytenu: 5
Kulanu: 4
Meretz: 4
Ra’am Balad: 4
New Right: 0
Zehut: 0
Gesher: 0

Liberman announces he will recommend Netanyahu form next government

Ending brief speculation on the matter that gave the Blue and White party a grain of hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to form a government with the right-wing bloc alone, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman tells the Ynet news site that his party will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Netanyahu be tasked with forming the next government.

Morning after electoral blow, Bennett says he’ll never stop giving to the state

New Right co-leader Naftali Bennett exited his Ra’anana home briefly Wednesday morning to give a brief statement to reporters in response to results showing that after 97% of the vote counted, his party is not slated to make it into the Knesset.

“All my life I gave everything I could for this good nation. I’ve always been a soldier of the state — in [elite IDF unit] Sayeret Matkal, as a high-tech entrepreneur, as education minister and in the cabinet of Operation Protective Edge [in Gaza in 2014],” Bennett says.

“Now, the soldiers will decide where I continue to fight for them,” he adds, anticipating that the IDF ballots will push his party up 4,300 votes to cross the electoral threshold.

Waking up to apparent defeat, Gantz tells supporters Blue and White planning next move

In a letter to his supporters upon waking up to election results which all but put to bed the possibility that he will serve as prime minister, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz tries to maintain a degree of cautious optimism.

“We may be able to make a political maneuver of one kind or another,” he says.

“Good morning friends, yes, good morning,” Gantz writes, opening his letter to party activists. “The reports tell an unfinished story. There is nothing final about (the results).”

“They, our voters, asked for hope and we gave it to them. They wanted another way and we outlined it,” Gantz continues. “Therefore, we will not retreat from our public obligation to represent more than a million citizens who asked us for a something different. We have something to be proud of.”

Bloodied but unbowed, Union of Right-Wing Parties demands two ministerial posts

Despite being slated to receive just five seats in the incoming Knesset after the final votes are tallied tomorrow morning, Union of Right-Wing Parties chairman Rafi Peretz says he will demand two ministerial posts in coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The head of the Likud satellite party asserts on Army Radio that his faction will receive six seats in the end and that he would be best fit to serve as education minister while party No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich should be chosen as justice minister.

“It is natural for Bezalel to deal with law while I have decades of work in the field of education,” he says.

With Likud currently coming in at 35 seats with 97% of the vote counted, the party is expected to retain additional posts for its own members.

Liberman rules out joining Gantz, but says ‘clear answers’ needed from Netanyahu

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman rules out recommending Blue and White chief Benny Gantz as the next prime minister, but says joining a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu is not a given.

“The existing options are joining Netanyahu’s government or staying in the opposition,” says Liberman, who according to near-final results has won five seats in the next Knesset.

If there are no changes as the soldiers’, diplomats’ and prisoners’ votes are tallied, Yisrael Beytenu will have a pivotal role in the next coalition, since without it the right-wing bloc only has 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset and cannot form a government.

Smotrich dismisses report quoting party official who vowed Ben Gvir wouldn’t be in Knesset

Union of Right Wing Parties No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich dismisses a report quoting a senior official in his party assuring critics of its merger with Otzma Yehudit that the latter’s candidate Itamar Ben Gvir will not be in the Knesset.

Ben Gvir is number seven on the list of the right-wing alliance, which barely has five seats in the upcoming Knesset with 97% of the vote counted. However, Smotrich has said that he is committed to the so-called “Norwegian law,” which allows an MK from any party who is appointed to a cabinet post to give up their Knesset seat, allowing a different person on their party’s list to enter parliament.

Smotrich tweets that he still stands by that pledge, which he made to Ben Gvir when the parties merged.

While refusing to speak on record, Labor members call for Gabbay’s ouster

After the left-wing Labor party was left in shock with its worst result ever in Israeli elections, party members are directing the blame at leader Avi Gabbay, with some calling for his resignation and others suggesting a union with the Meretz party, which is further to the left.

“Gabbay will have to go and it would be better if he does so of his own volition,” an unnamed senior Labor official is cited as saying by the Ynet news site.

Another party official was quoted as saying: “It is only a matter of time before a request is filed to convene an emergency meeting of the Labor’s central committee to oust Gabbay and set a new date for primaries.”

A third member says Gabbay “can’t stay in his position for a single day.”

Austrian chancellor first world leader to congratulate Netanyahu on electoral victory

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is the first world leader to congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his electoral victory.

With strong right-wing electoral showing, settler leaders declare death of Palestinian state

The Yesha settlement umbrella council announces the death of the era of the Palestinian state following the strong showing for the right along with the collapse of factions on the left.

“This morning we can say with certainty: In the face of all the campaigns and manipulations, the people of Israel chose the right. The people expressed their loyalty to the Land of Israel and chose in favor of applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” says the Yesha Council.

“We congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his election, and look forward to the establishment of a strong and broad right-wing government. In the next Knesset, too, we will continue to build, expand, legalize and jointly develop Israeli communities in the region.”

India’s Modi congratulates Netanyahu on his victory in Hebrew tweet

Joining Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi becomes the second world leader to congratulate his Israeli counterpart on a divisive electoral victory.

“My dear friend Bibi, congratulations! You are a dear friend of India and I expect to continue working with you to take our mutual partnership (to the next level),” Modi tweets.

PLO official: Results show Israel said no to peace, yes to occupation

Senior PLO official Saeb Erakat says Tuesday’s election results show that Israelis “have said no to peace and yes to the occupation.”

‘Good job, my friend,’ Italian interior minister tells Netanyahu in a congratulatory tweet

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini congratulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his decisive electoral victory.

“Good job to my friend Bibi and a hug to the people of Israel,” Salvini tweets.

 

President’s consultations with parties in preparation for coalition’s formation to be broadcast live

President Reuven Rivlin has ordered that the consultations that he’ll begin holding with the various parties next week in order to form the next government will be broadcast live for all Israelis on multiple platforms.

The decision was made in order to promote transparency, the Walla news site reports.

During these meetings, parties will provide the president with their recommendations of who they think should form the next coalition.

Netanyahu is expected to be the candidate who will receive the most recommendations.

Israeli lightly injured by hammer thrown through car window as he drove by Palestinian village

An Israeli man is lightly injured by a hammer that was thrown at his car by suspects from the Palestinian village of Tuqua as he was driving down a West Bank highway near the Tekoa settlement, officials say.

The man has been taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The hammer smashed through the front windshield and landed inside the car.

Troops are searching for the attackers, the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Hamas calls Israeli election outcome irrelevant

A senior Hamas leader dismisses the outcome of Israel’s election as irrelevant, as near-final results show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc has won a clear majority in the Knesset vote.

“All parties are faces of one coin, the coin of occupation,” says Khalil al-Hayya.

He said there was “no difference” between the Israeli parties, and pledged that Gaza’s jihadist rulers — who are committed to Israel’s destruction — would continue seeking to “end the occupation and achieve our national goals.”

— AP

Cyprus president congratulates Netanyahu on decisive electoral victory

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades congratulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his electoral victory.

Police: Palestinian bus passenger attempts to stab guards at East Jerusalem checkpoint

Police say a Palestinian bus passenger attempted to stab crossing authority officers at the az-Za’ayyem checkpoint between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem.

The officers fired in the air and managed to apprehend the suspect, a female resident of Tulkarem, before anyone was injured, the police say.

The suspect has been taken for questioning.

Germany vows close ties with next Israeli government

Germany says it will work closely with any new Israeli government and stressed the two countries’ “cordial” ties despite recent differences on Israel’s settlement policies.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert says that Berlin was waiting for the official result of Tuesday’s parliamentary elections.

The Likud party of right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears set to win the election and to forge a governing coalition.

Seibert tells reporters that “Israel lies in a region with enormous challenges, which is why it’s important to form a government quickly.”

He declined to comment on Netanyahu’s possible re-election to a fifth term but said the German government “will work closely, cordially and faithfully with the new Israeli government.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul says Israel is already fully aware of Germany’s concerns about Jewish settlements on occupied territory.

— AP

Lapid says Blue and White has sights on 2020 election

Offering his first public comments since a decisive electoral defeat, Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid tells Channel 13 that “the 2020 campaign began today.”

 

Trump: Netanyahu win a good sign for peace

In his first comments on the Israeli election, US President Donald Trump says Netanyahu’s victory is a good sign for peace, Reuters reports.

 

Trump: We have a better chance now that Bibi has won

On Netanyahu’s apparent victory at the polls, Trump says: “I think we have a better chance now that Bibi has won.”

He makes the comment to reporters on the White House South Lawn before heading to Texas.

Trump congratulates Netanyahu, says: It looks like he’s won

Here are more of Trump’s comments on Netanyahu’s apparent election win:

“I’d like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu. It looks like that race has been won by him. It may be a little early but I’m hearing he’s won it and won it in good fashion.”

“He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend. I’d like to congratulate him, that was a well fought out race I can tell you.”

“But it looks like Bibi has won that race.”

Blue and White leaders to give statement after apparent defeat

Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid will give a press statement today at 7 p.m. at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv. It will be their first public comments since Gantz declared victory in the election last night. They are expected to formally concede the race.

A Blue and White spokesman says there will be no questions.

— Raoul Wootliff

Czechs laud Netanyahu, look forward to embassy move, joint projects

Czech President Milos Zeman congratulates Netanyahu in a letter and says he still wants to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

“I hope that in the future we will have many opportunities to continue our fruitful cooperation and, last but not least, to fulfill my dream, namely to move the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he writes.

The embassy move has been consistently blocked by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who also congratulates Netanyahu and invites him to return to Prague.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Jerusalem on February 19, 2019. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Babis says in a series of tweets that he looks forward to cooperating with Israel on cybersecurity and medical cannabis.

He calls Israel an inspiration for the Czech Republic.

Iran president says Trump’s labeling of IRGC meant to help Netanyahu at polls

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is slamming the US backlisting of the country’s Revolutionary Guards military wing as a ploy to help Netanyahu at the polls.

“The Israeli prime minister clearly stated that this action by the US has been taken at his request, in other words, all crimes and improper actions by the US have been meant to (help) someone win the elections in the occupied territories,” he says, according to Iran’s Tasnim news outlet.

Netanyahu said Trump had labeled the IRGC a foreign terrorist group at his request, which Iranian officials have seized on as proof the move was meant to boost the Israeli premier.

In a separate statement, the IRGC threatens to “give the enemies unforgettable, regrettable lessons,” according to the regime’s IRNA news site.

Trump shares picture of Trump flag ‘waived’ at Likud rally

US President Donald Trump retweets a picture of a Trump flag being “waived” at the Likud victory party Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Pompeo refuses to say if Iran oil waivers being reviewed

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, being grilled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, deflects questions about discontinuing oil waivers on Iran sanctions in light of Israeli revelations about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Pompeo says European and Asian banks’ “world changed” when the US labeled the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror group this week.

He says the move will “deny them the resources” to carry out terror campaigns.

Trump calls Netanyahu from plane to congratulate him on win

From onboard Air Force One, US President Donald Trump has called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election victory, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for his support of Israel “including the recongition of Jerusalem and the Golan, and his strong stance against the Iranian regime,” the PMO says in a statement.

The two also spoke about their deep ties and the US-Israel bilateral relationship, the statement says.

Trump is flying from Washington to Texas.

Right-wing union says it will insist on education, justice ministries

Union of Right-Wing Parties leader Rafi Peretz tells Channel 12 news that he will insist of the education portfolio for himself and the Justice Ministry for No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich as a condition for entering the governing coalition.

Jewish Home, one of the factions making up the right-wing amalgamation, held the two posts in the last government. The two minsters who held the posts, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, are not currently projected to enter the Knesset.

Likud has denied plans on letting URWP have the posts, but will likely be dependent on the party’s support to form a coalition.

Liberman says he’ll sit in opposition if need be

Also playing hard to get, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman tells Channel 12 news that he will go to the opposition if need be, insisting that the secular party “will not trade its values for seats.”

Liberman is the only right-wing party head to refuse to say if he will recommend Netanyahu to lead the next government. He pans the prime minister for what he says was an attempt to “weaken the right,” with an 11th-hour campaign meant to slurp votes from potential allies.

He also says he’s not unhappy that Naftali Bennett will likely not enter the Knesset.

Nasrallah says US-Israel ties ‘unprecedented,’ slams IRGC blacklisting

Commenting on the Israeli election, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says “Netanyahu will likely form a new right-wing Zionist government and we are before a new stage of unprecedented cooperation between America and Israel represented in Netanyahu and Trump,” according to Lebanese new site Naharnet.

He adds, cryptically, that “we are before a major juncture related to our territorial border.”

Nasrallah also slams the US labeling of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as Washington “humiliating an entire nation for Israel’s sake.”

“This is the epitome of insolence and foolishness,” he says, adding that “US measures against us will not remain without a response and we will respond at the right time.”

Lapid: We will turn the Knesset into a battleground from the opposition

In a speech to the press, Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid talks up the party’s achievements, but admits defeat in the elections.

“We are not just going to the opposition, we are going to get ready for the next round,” he says. “We did not come here to end the 2019 campaign. We came to open the 2020 campaign.”

Lapid vows that leading the opposition, the party will “turn the Knesset into a battleground.”

He specifically mentions that the party will demand an investigation into the suspicions regarding Netanyahu’s links to a deal to buy submarines from a German shipbuilding firm.

Gantz: We accept reality, though level of support ‘unprecedented’

Speaking after Yair Lapid, Blue and White head Benny Gantz says the party accepts the will of the people and the reality of the blocs that will send his party to the opposition, but notes that with over a million votes they have created a “real alternative to the government.”

“This is unprecedented and tells us how much of an expectation there is among people. They are looking for a different way, a different language.”

Ministerial musical chairs set to kick off

With the dust settling after elections, pundits are trying to assess who will get what ministries.

Most assume that the chips will fall pretty much how they were before elections, with few positions being moved around. But some are jockeying for better positions, leaving open the possibility of a shakeup.

There are also question of whether Avigdor Liberman will return to his role as defense minister, whether Netanyahu will seek to keep the foreign ministry portfolio, let acting foreign minister Israel Katz continue on, or shuffle positions in some other ways.

Negotiations have yet to officially kick off, with President Reuven Rivlin not expected to task Netanyahu with forming a government until after full results are in and consultations with all the parties.

Likud: Netanyahu in ‘advanced talks’ after winning ‘definitive mandate’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in “advanced talks” to form a right-wing nationalist government, a Likud party source says.

The source says the public gave Netanyahu “full support and a definitive mandate to continue to lead” and that the coalition will last four years.

“We are going for a full term,” the source says.

Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party is leading Blue and White by some 13,000 votes, or less than a percentage point, with almost all ballots counted, but the makeup of smaller parties means he has a clear path to build a right-wing coalition.

Poll numbers unchanged as final votes await counting

As of 9 p.m. polling numbers are unchanged from Wednesday morning.

Over 97% of votes have been counted, with remaining ballots left to count from soldiers, inmates, hospital patients and envoys abroad. Those are only expected to be counted later Wednesday or early Thursday.

Barring any major surprises, the tallies are expected to stay mostly the same, with the major questions being whether New Right remains below the electoral threshold and Balad above it.

Because of a constellation of complicated leftover vote sharing agreements, the final tally of seats could still shift slightly, but not in a way that will significantly alter the makeup of the two main blocs, center-left and right-wing.

Haredi parties eye court bypass for IDF draft law

The Ynet news site reports that ultra-Orthodox parties set to join the next governing coalition will be looking for a commitment to pass legislation allowing it to bypass a High Court ruling mandating a law regulating Haredi participation in the military draft.

The court has demanded a law be passed in the coming months, angering the ultra-Orthodox sector who oppose attempts to force community members to enlist in the military.

“We already have agreement [on the law] from all the party heads,” a United Torah Judaism party source tells Ynet. “This will solve a lot of problems from the last term.”

Such a law would likely put the new government on an immediate collision course, however, pitting the ultra-Orthodox against Yisrael Beytenu, led by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman.

Liberman, who supports a law to regulate the Haredi draft, has threatened to balk at joining the nascent coalition over religion and state issues, putting Netanyahu’s future government in peril.

What election? Beresheet gears up for historic moon landing

The Beresheet spacecraft has completed its final maneuver ahead of a planned moon landing on Thursday night.

The privately-funded spacecraft is now in its smallest elliptical orbit around the moon, completing a full rotation it in just two hours. At its closest point, the spacecraft is 15 to 17 kilometer above the moon’s surface.

Beresheet photographs the moon on April 10, 2019 from a height of 2,500 kilometers. (Courtesy)

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will touch down on the moon’s surface on April 11 between 10 to 11 p.m., making Israel the fourth country to put a spacecraft on the moon.

— Melanie Lidman

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With 96% of vote in, Netanyahu has clear path to fifth term as PM

With some 96% of votes counted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party appear on track to get 35 seats each, but Netanyahu has a clear path to forming a right-wing government.

The results give Likud 26.47%, just slightly ahead of Blue and White on 26.11%

According to the count, the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and UTJ will get 8 seats each. The Arab Hadash-Ta’al and Labor get six each. Yisrael Beytenu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties get 5 seats, and Kulanu and Meretz 4 seats.

The big change of the last hour being the second Arab party Ra’am Ra’am-Balad just reaching the 3.25% threshold, which will give them 4 seats.

These results give the right and religious bloc 65 seats, while the center, left and Arab parties have 55.