Israel election – Netanyahu can probably form right wing government

Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger in the election in Israel has conceded defeat, with Netanyahu looking likly to be able to form a government regarded as right wing.

Reuters:  Israel’s Netanyahu wins re-election, main challenger concedes defeat

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.

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.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Twitter he would begin meeting next week with political parties that won parliamentary seats to hear who they support for prime minister.

At the sessions, which Rivlin said would be broadcast live “to ensure transparency”, he will then pick a party leader to try to form a coalition, giving the candidate 28 days to do so, with a two-week extension if needed.

The close and often vitriolic contest was widely seen in Israel as a referendum on Netanyahu’s character and record in the face of corruption allegations. He faces possible indictment in three graft cases, and has denied wrongdoing in all of them.

Despite that, Netanyahu gained four seats compared to his outgoing coalition government, according to a spreadsheet published by the Central Elections Committee of parties that garnered enough votes to enter the next parliament.

But Netanyahu  still faces some legal problems (that he may grant himself immunity from).

An indictment decision would follow a review hearing where Netanyahu can be expected to argue he should be spared in the national interest. Some analysts predict he may try to pass a law granting himself immunity, as a sitting leader, from trial.

Did Donald Trump ‘interfere’ in the election? He certainly tried to influence it.

During the campaign, Netanyahu sought to tap into Trump’s popularity among Israelis, who delighted in his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and transfer of the U.S. Embassy to the holy city last May from Tel Aviv.

Two weeks before the election, Trump signed a proclamation, with Netanyahu at his side at the White House, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Trump has applauded Netanyahu’s electoral success.

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”.

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.”

I guess that at least Trump’s assistance was out in the open – some of it anyway.

But this sort of direct involvement of the leader of one country in the election in another country  doesn’t look good to me.