Israel's Netanyahu Wins Ee-election, Main Challenger Concedes Defeat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election on Wednesday, with religious-rightist parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority and his main challenger conceding defeat.

With more than 99 percent of votes counted – ballots cast by soldiers at military bases will be tallied over the next two days – Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party looked likely to muster enough support to control 65 of the Knesset’s 120 seats and be named to head the next coalition government.

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It would be Netanyahu’s record fifth term as premier.

In a televised statement, Yair Lapid, number two in the centrist Blue and White party led by former general Benny Gantz, said: “We didn’t win in this round. We will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, who Netanyahu featured on campaign billboards to highlight their close relationship, phoned to congratulate him on his re-election, the Israeli leader said, adding that he thanked his American ally for “tremendous support for Israel”.

Netanyahu tweeted that Trump had called him from Air Force One. The president was on a flight to Texas.

Trump told reporters at the White House that Netanyahu’s re-election improved the chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend. I’d like to congratulate him on a well-thought-out race.”