Israel Election: Shy of Majority, Netanyahu Says Gantz 'Undermines Democracy'

Israel election results: Netanyahu says Gantz is 'linking up with terrorists' supporters,' alluding at possible union with Arab alliance Joint List ■ 99 percent of votes counted, right-wing bloc with 58 seats

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party election ballots are seen on the floor following Netanyahu's address to supporters at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel March 3, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party election ballots are seen on the floor following Netanyahu's address to supporters at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel March 3, 2020.Credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters
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Haaretz

With nearly all votes counted, Israel's election results indicate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is the largest party – but the right-wing bloc has failed to secure a 61-seat majority to form a government. Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party trails behind the Likud by several seats.

The Arab Joint List cemented a historic victory, not only remaining Israel's third-largest party but gaining more strength.

Bibi limps to election 'victory.' But he didn't win

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Voting ended at 10 P.M. on Monday, and the final results were delayed due to new procedures enacted for this election, as well as the issue of counting the ballots of voters quarantined for coronavirus. 

>> Read more: Likud threatens Gantz ally with embarrassing tapes if she doesn't defect ■ Center-left doomed by Netanyahu’s killer campaign – and its own crippling complacency ■ Election is over - what happens now? Key dates to follow ■ Gantz's party members preparing for defections, don't rule out splitting up ■View live results and build your own coalition 

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9:50 P.M. With 99.99 precent of votes counted, no change in distribution of seats

There has been no change in the distribution of Knesset seats after 99.99 percent of the votes have been vounted, the Elections Committee says. This keeps the bloc of parties loyal to Netanyahu at 58 seats.

7:30 P.M. Netanyahu: I chose not to take step that could have given us victory

Prime Minister Netanyahu says at a meeting with right-wing parties that on the eve of the election, he received a proposal "to take a step that I think would have set the entire Middle East ablaze. It's very possible that it would have given us the win, and I refused to do it." 

6:00 P.M. Netanyahu accuses Gantz of 'undermining the foundations of democracy'

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Making a televised address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the most recent tally of the vote in the third Israeli election and blasted his chief rival Benny Gantz. "The move Gantz is leading undermines the foundations of democracy," he said, alluding to a potential linkup between the former army chief's Kahol Lavan party and the Arab alliance Joint List. "He is trying to cancel out what the people determined," he continued, added that he and his party members have "repeatedly warned that Gantz is linking up with terror supporters." 

He claimed victory among "Zionist" voters as "the Arabs are not part of this equation, and this is the people's will." The Arab alliance Joint List is not really part of the left-wing bloc, Netanyahu added, saying that it only includes 47 seats. 

"Gantz lied to his voters and is trying to steal this election," the premier charged. He was referring to reports earlier Wednesday that Kahol Lavan were in contact with other center and left-wing parties to try and promote a law that would make it illegal for him to attempt to build a government under indictment.

In response, Gantz tweeted: "Bibi, drink a glass of water, wait for the final results and promise to respect them."

3:48 P.M. Another Kahol Lavan lawmaker says Likud asked him to defect

Netanyahu delivers his victory speech, March 2, 2020.
Netanyahu delivers his victory speech, March 2, 2020.Credit: AFP

Kahol Lavan lawmaker Yoel Razvozov says he was approached by Likud to defect to the party. "Let's put it this way, there's a better chance that Netanyahu will topple Hamas' rule than that someone from Kahol Lavan will defect to Likud," he writes on Twitter. 

1:05 P.M. Gesher leader denies intentions to break alliance with Labor 

Gesher leader Orli Levi-Abekasis categorically denied all reports saying she intends to break her alliance with Labor and Meretz. The Labor-Gesher-Meretz slate, which was expected at least 10 Knesset seats, is likely to get only seven.

Levi-Abekasis has become the target of wooing by Likud, based on estimates that she might defect and grant Netanyahu the support he needs to form a new and stable governing coalition.  

12:57 P.M. Likud lawmaker slams Gantz, Joint List MK over law to bar indicted Netanyahu from serving as PM

Likud lawmaker Miri Regev attacked Benny Gantz and Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi, saying "Tibi is sticking to his promise to overthrow Netanyahu and Likud and to control Benny Gantz, who is cracking under the pressure by giving in to the Joint List."

Regev added that "The legislation led by Tibi and Gantz is nothing less than a coup. We won't let this happen."      

12:35 P.M. Shas party leader bashes initiative to promote law barring indicted Netanyahu from forming gov't

Ultra-orthodox Shas party leader Arye Dery said that "passing a personal-tailored law to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from serving as prime minister after the public has expressed its faith [in Netanyahu] is a disgrace and breaking the rules of the political game."

Dery added that "Kahol Lavan are prepared to sacrifice the country and the unity of the nation in favor of their personal hatred for Netanyahu, which unites Lieberman and the Joint List." 

12:13 P.M. Kahol Lavan lawmaker: Netanyahu's party offered me to defect

Kahol Lavan lawmaker Meirav Cohen, an advocate for Israel's elderly population, said that Netanyahu's Likud offered her a ministerial position if she defected from her party.

"I respect all my colleagues in the Knesset, but this is really not the way. I despise political defectors whose only goal is to get ahead," Cohen said in a video posted on Twitter.

11:27 A.M. Defense minister slams Meretz initiative to push for law preventing indicted PM from forming gov't  

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina party (part of Netanyahu's right-wing bloc), pushed back against Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz's initiative to advance a law blocking an indicted prime minister from forming a government.

Bennett called the initiative "anti-democratic" and said it amounted to "spitting in the face of half of the country."

"Two days ago there were elections," he said, "and they are already trying to circumvent the will the people." 

11:13 A.M. Meretz leader calls on Gantz's party to push law preventing indicted PM from forming a gov't

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz urged Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan to push a law blocking an indicted prime minister from forming a government.

"We'll have a majority in the new Knesset to pass a law preventing a prime minister to serve under indictment. It reflected the will of the public, and it's the moral thing to do."   

9:33 A.M. 99 percent of vote counted: Right-wing bloc down to 58 seats, Kahol Lavan up to 33

Netanyahu's right-wing bloc is down to 58 seats, while Benny Gantz's Kahool Lavan gains one seat, standing at 33. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party goes down to nine seats, according to the results published by the Central Elections Committee after 99 percent of the vote have been counted. 

8:32 A.M. Updated vote count: right-wing bloc at 59 seats, Joint List down to 15

With 96.7 percent of the vote counted, Netanyahu's right-wing bloc is up to 59 seats, two seats shy of a majority. The Joint List alliance of Arab-parties is down to 15 seats, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party is one seat up to 10. 

7:41 A.M. Kahol Lavan MK says party will not form unity government with Netanyahu

In an interview with Israel Army Radio, Kahol Lavan MK Ofer Shelah said Wednesday morning that his party would not join a unity government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Shelah said that if the right-wing bloc stands at 59 seats at the end of the vote count, "we will work quickly to shape a bloc of 61 seats to oppose a Netanyahu-led government."

When asked about potential defectors from his party to Netanyahu’s Likud, Shelah said that the MKs in question “are doing everything they can to create a non-Netanyahu government."

7:05 A.M. 94 percent of vote counted: Right-wing bloc earns 58 seats, Joint List gets 16

With 94.26 percent of the vote counted, Netanyahu's right-wing bloc wins 58 seats, with Likud garners 36 seats. Kahol Lavan follows with 32.  

06:58 A.M. Updated vote count gives Likud an extra seat

With 93.65 percent of the votes counted, the results remain largely unchanged. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is now up to 36 out of 120 Knesset seats, at the expense of ultra-Orthodox party Shas, which is down to nine seats.

The Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc still has 58 seats, three shy of a clear majority.

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