In a race that had been too close to call for most of Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared headed for a record fifth term Wednesday morning.
As of press time, with the unofficial vote tally nearly complete, Netanyahu’s Likud party and its smaller nationalist and orthodox-religious coalition partners looked to have secured a comfortable majority in parliament, besting the Blue and White coalition led by centrist former army general Benny Gantz. Still, both candidates claimed victory with official results still to come in the days ahead.
“This is a night of great victory. I’m very touched that, for the fifth time, the people of Israel have believed in me,” Netanyahu said Tuesday night at the Likud party election headquarters in Tel Aviv. “I will start forming a right-wing government with our natural partners as soon as tonight.”
Netanyahu and President Trump have cultivated a steady alliance since Trump took office in 2017, and Trump has awarded the prime minister with politically helpful decisions to move the U.S. Embassy in the country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend, I’d like to congratulate him,” Trump said of Netanyahu. “That was a well-thought out race I can tell you.”
The president added an optimistic prediction for progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” Trump said. “Look, everyone said — and I never made it a promise — but everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians. I think we have a chance. I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won.”