“It will be a right-wing government, but I will be prime minister for all,” said Benjamin Netanyahu as he proclaimed his win for record fifth term as the Prime Minister of Israel amidst cheering supporters at Likud’s headquarters.
“I’m very touched that the people of Israel gave me their vote of confidence for the fifth time and an even bigger vote of confidence than previous elections”, said the newly elected PM.
“I intend to be the prime minister of all citizens of Israel. Right, left, Jews, non-Jews. All of Israel’s citizens.”
Benjamin Netanyahu will serve a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister after his main rival Benny Gantz conceded that he had lost the election.
With 97% of votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White party, led by former army general Benny Gantz, had tied with 35 seats each in the 120-seat house, the Knesset. However, the rightwing bloc that Netanyahu is part of had 65 in total, a comfortable majority.
According to Reuters reports, the remaining ballots, cast at military bases, will be counted over the coming days, after which, the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will choose a leader best placed to assemble a majority.
No party has ever won a sole majority in Israel’s parliament and it has always had coalition governments.
“We respect the decision of the people,” Gantz said in a televised statement on Wednesday evening, adding that Blue and White had “founded a true alternative rule to Netanyahu”.
His number two, Yair Lapid, said while the party “didn’t win in this round, we will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition”.
In the right-wing bloc, the parties that made it into the Knesset are Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, Union of Right-Wing Parties, Hayamin Hehadash and Kulanu. In the centre-left bloc, the parties that made it into the Knesset are Kahol Lavan, Hadash-Ta’al, Labor, Meretz and United Arab List-Balad.
How USA cherished Netanyahu’s win
US President Donald Trump has already offered his congratulations. Apparently, Trump had called the newly elected PM from Air Force One while on his way to Texas.
“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” said Trump, who has tasked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with drafting a Middle East peace plan. Palestinians have preemptively rejected it, citing overt Trump bias, while Netanyahu has shown open disdain for peace efforts.
During the campaign, Netanyahu sought to gain from Trump’s popularity among Israelis, who had recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and led to the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to the holy city last May from Tel Aviv.
Trump also signed a proclamation just two weeks before the Knesset elections, with Netanyahu at his side at the White House, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights which Israel had captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
This pre-election promise from Netanyahu was widely seen as an attempt to draw right-wing votes rather than a change of policy. But with Trump’s moves on Jerusalem and the Golan, the prime minister may feel emboldened to advocate annexation.
PM Narendra Modi was also among the world leaders who congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu for his re-election. He tweeted to his “dear friend”, and said he hoped to “take our bilateral partnership to new heights”.
My dear friend Bibi, Congratulations! You are a great friend of India, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to take our bilateral partnership to new heights. @netanyahu
— Chowkidar Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 10, 2019
India’s ruling nationalist party and the Israeli right have a remarkable mutual similarity and affinity. Both nations have long suffered from extreme violence inflicted from cross border terrorism. Benjamin Netanyahu has dealt with violent factions within Palestine with utmost severity giving fitting replies to the terrorist groups.
The right-wing PM made a striking resemblance to the Indian PM who is also known to take hard measures against the cross border terrorism.
Back in 2017, when PM Modi visited the middle-east nation, Netanyahu welcomed him to Israel saying “Prime Minister Modi, we have been waiting for you for a long time, almost 70 years … We view you as a kindred spirit.”
At this time, when two premiers of respective democracies battling for re-election in spring 2019, shared a warm rapport, with acknowledging each other on Twitter as “my friend Narendra” and “my friend Bibi.”
The Modi-Bibi bonhomie rests on much more than personal chemistry as Israeli military-industrial complex’s plays a significant role in strengthening Indian Armed Forces. It is rooted in the profound admiration of generations of Hindu nationalists for Zionism and its geographical epicentre, Israel, whose model of nation-state they seek to emulate in India.
Both India and Israel have been victims of terrorism. Israel has worked profusely to restrict cross border terrorism by active military retaliation. Netanyahu had further alarmed Palestinians by pledging to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected. Palestinians seek a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Solidifying Israel’s drift towards the right, Netanyahu’s fifth term is expected to entrench the occupation over more than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the severe blockade on the Gaza strip.