Israel’s general election results almost guarantee that long-serving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will return to the office Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s Likud party took about the same percentage of the vote as the Blue and White Alliance that backs his opponent, former general Benny Gantz. But Likud has enough allies in the Knesset, Israel’s national legislature, that Netanyahu can start forming a coalition government, reported USA Today.
“I want to make it clear, it will be a right-wing government, but I intend to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens, right or left, Jews and non-Jews alike,” he said Wednesday according to USA Today.
Netanyahu’s coalition will cobble together factions coming mostly from the political right, while Gantz and his coalition painted themselves as centrists, reported The New York Times. Last-minute polling had shown Gantz’s coalition barely ahead of Netanyahu’s.
Netanyahu’s victory comes even after the politician, often referred to by his nickname “Bibi,” draws dangerously close to a possible indictment on one count of bribery and two counts of breach of trust and fraud that’s been hanging over his head since February.
The prime minister has served for roughly 13 years, in stints from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 until the present. He tapped into some of the most politically right of Israeli voters when he promised to annex Jewish West Bank settlements if re-elected, he said Saturday according to The New York Times.
Netanyahu also drew on his warm relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump in the lead-up to the election. The prime minister met with Trump in the White House March 25, during which Trump said the U.S. would recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. Trump is a popular figure in Israel — 69 percent of Israelis expressed confidence in Trump as president in 2018, compared to 28 percent of Britons, reported Haaretz.
The race between Gantz’s and Netanyahu’s coalitions attracted international attention. 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke called Netanyahu a “racist” who has sided with a “far-right racist party” on Sunday.
But Gantz and Netanyahu may not be as different as they wanted voters to think. Gantz was the chief of staff of the nation’s army, the Israeli Defense Force, for four years under Netanyahu.
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