Netanyahu heads for fifth term as prime minister of Israel

Israelis head to polls as Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks fifth term

Netanyahu spoke later and declared himself the victor of a fifth term in office.

The Likud party with the help of other right-wing parties are likely to muster enough support to get a majority in the 120-seat parliament, known as Knesset. The close race between the two main parties had led to uncertainty after polls closed on Tuesday night and exit surveys were released.

The results of the elections will determine Netanyahu's political future, as he faces serious corruption allegations and a possible indictment. In large part, the campaign was a referendum on Netanyahu's character, as Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit has said he intends to charge the 69-year-old in three graft cases. The victor has to make a coalition with smaller parties, a process that takes weeks to from a cabinet.

"The rightist bloc led by Likud has won a clear victory", Netanyahu said in a statement.

As he walked onto the stage to chanting crowds, he planted a kiss on the lips of his wife Sara.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, April 29, 2018. The US president moved his country's embassy to the "undivided capital" Jerusalem and recognized the Golan Heights - annexed in 1981 - as Israeli territory, even though it clearly belongs to Syria under global law.

Demolishing or failing to demolish Khan al-Ahmar could be the first signal from 4th term prime minister Netanyahu as to whether he is or isn't a true part of the right-wing bloc. Legal experts expect at least some charges to be filed.

Follows what had been expected to be a close vote...

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Some analysts predict he may try to pass a law granting himself immunity, as a sitting leader, from trial.

The message was a sharp contrast from his campaign theme in which he accused Gantz of conspiring with Arab parties to topple him.

President Donald Trump called Netanyahu to congratulate him, saying that with the victory, "I think we'll see some pretty good action in terms of peace".

In the words of Haaretz, Israel's national newspaper, Netanyahu's long political career path is due to the fact that "Israelis are like smokers who would really like to quit, but who believe they cannot function without their constant dose of nicotine".

In a rare turn during the race towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr Netanyahu further alarmed Palestinians by pledging to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected. There is a deep division within Palestinian society and a rift between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But with Trump's moves on Jerusalem and the Golan, the prime minister may feel emboldened to advocate annexation.

Lapid, the party's No. 2 leader, said Blue and White would "show the people of Israel what a real alternative looks like". In December, when these elections were called, 73% of voters said they wanted a right or centre-right government.

Trump also caused controversy a year ago when he recognized divided Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv - a move which many Palestinians and activists felt made any of Trump's "peace" efforts in the region dead on arrival. Trump announced he would reveal a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East shortly after the elections. Israel's central elections commission banned parties from bringing cameras into polling stations after Likud party activists were caught with hidden cameras in Arab towns.

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