Moreover, the right-wing bloc in parliament favours Netanyahu and could make him prime minister even if Gantz's party wins more seats.
Meanwhile a poll by Israel's Channel 12 put Gantz's lead over Netanyahu even wider, predicting 37 seats for Gantz and 33 for Netanyahu. General Benny Gantz has stepped into the running with his Blue and White alliance, hoping to snatch power from under the current Prime Minister's feet. "Elections have losers and elections have winners".
Meanwhile, Gantz claimed victory Tuesday, after two out of three TV exit polls gave his centrist party the biggest showing in parliamentary seats.
Netanyahu's office issued a statement Wednesday saying Trump "warmly congratulated" Netanyahu, who thanked the president for his "great support for Israel", including the White House's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He said he expected to forge a new coalition with the right-wing parties he called his "natural partners", but that he meant to be "the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel". It appears Netanyahu's party - Likud - has a pathway to do that, relying on a coalition of far-right and ultra-orthodox parties. "We can be proud of ourselves, and we will be", the former IDF Chief of Staff said confidently. Speaking to his Likud lawmakers on the day the election was called he said the outgoing government had "outstanding achievements" on which to campaign.
Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday tweeted congratulations to his "friend" Netanyahu who looks. Though largely a ceremonial post, the president is responsible for choosing the candidate with the best chance of building a stable coalition government as prime minister. With around 97 percent of all votes tallied, Likud has secured 26.27 percent of ballots, giving the party 25 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, according to the parliament's website. It seems clear that Netanyahu believed the timing was right-sending voters to polls before any indictments were brought against him, and with a message he could sell to the electorate.
People don't call Benjamin Netanyahu "the magician" for nothing.
Netanyahu made a last-minute pledge ahead of the elections to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move that could end remaining hopes for a two-state solution if done on a large scale. The prime minister met with Trump in the White House March 25, during which Trump said the US would recognize Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. The last time he feared losing an election, he warned of Israeli Arab voters heading to polling stations "in droves"; this time, his party Likud placed hidden cameras in polling stations in Arab communities, their purported concerns about "voting fraud" looking more like voter suppression.
Netanyahu had fought a tight race against centrist ex-army chief Benny Gantz.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat lamented that the Israelis voted to maintain "the status quo". We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.