IND Israel election 18/09 - Live coverage - The Independent

IND Israel election 18/09

    Israel's two main political parties were deadlocked on Wednesday after an unprecedented repeat election.
     
    Benjamin Netanyahu was fighting to hold on to his job as prime minister after exit polls showed the race was too close to call.
    9/18/2019 9:03:48 AM
    Here is some analysis of the exit polls and the election so far from Bel Trew, our correspondent in Tel Aviv:

    Netanyahu suffers devastating blow after hard-right coalition fails to win majority, exit polls show

    None of the polls found that his right-wing bloc would be able to secure the 61-seat majority needed to form a government
    9/18/2019 9:11:05 AM
    Mr Netanyahu's main challenger, centrist Benny Gantz, said it appeared from the exit polls Israel's longest-serving leader was defeated, but only official results would tell.
     
    Mr Gantz, a former armed forces chief, beamed with confidence as he told a rally of his Blue and White Party it appeared "we fulfilled our mission", and he pledged to work towards formation of a unity government.
     
    Mr Netanyahu, he said, apparently "did not succeed in his mission" to win a fifth term. "We will await the actual results," Mr Gantz, 60, said.
    9/18/2019 9:29:41 AM
    Mr Netanyahu's Likud party and Mr Gantz's Blue and White both had 32 seats each of the parliament's 120, with more than 90 per cent of votes counted, Israeli media is reporting.
    9/18/2019 9:45:36 AM
    As the results came in, the election's apparent kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman, insisted the overall picture was unlikely to change.
     
    He also demanded a secular "liberal" government shorn of the religious and ultra-Orthodox allies the prime minister has long relied upon.
     
    "The conclusion is clear, everything we said throughout the campaign is coming true," he said outside his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim. "There is one and only option: a national unity government that is broad and liberal and we will not join any other option."
     
    Mr Gantz, a former military chief, has ruled out sitting with a Likud party led by Mr Netanyahu at a time when the prime minister is expected to be indicted on corruption charges in the coming weeks. It raised the specter of an alternate Likud candidate rising to challenge Mr Netanyahu, though most of its senior officials have thus far pledged to stand solidly behind their leader.
    9/18/2019 10:02:15 AM
    Mr Liberman is now "the linchpin," wrote Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist in the Yediot Ahronot daily.

    "I don't think that anyone is prepared to risk a third election, not even for Netanyahu," Mr Barnea added. "Maybe the time has come to say goodbye."
    9/18/2019 10:13:37 AM
    Many voters who spoke to The Independent in the run-up to the election blamed Mr Netanyahu for failing to form a ruling coalition:

    ‘Time to switch out the king’: Israeli voters disenchanted with Netanyahu

    Incumbent prime minister may have gone into this election all guns blazing, but some Israeli voters remain unconvinced
    9/18/2019 10:28:03 AM
    The partial results released on Wednesday by the Central Election Commission were based on a tally of 56 per cent of the potential electorate. Overall turnout was 69.4 per cent.

    According to the partial results, Likud with its natural allies of religious and ultra-nationalist parties mustered just 56 seats — or five short of the required majority.

    Mr Gantz's Blue and White and its center-left allies garnered 55 seats, placing Mr Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu and its nine seats in the middle as the deciding factor.
    9/18/2019 10:37:42 AM
    Eliran Ben Iolo, 32, a taxi driver in Tel Aviv, said he was voting for the Blue and White party.

    He told Bel Trew:
    [I] want Gantz to replace Bibi [a nickname for Mr Netanyahu] and also to take care of our brothers in the south, near Gaza, who every 14 minutes have to run into the shelters.
     
    We need to put an end to that, once and for all. To hit them hard, and not deliver them $30m in a suitcase. Whoever throws rockets needs to be hit. To kill them. The Shabak [Shin Bet, Israel's security agency] can do it.
     
    There’s more optimism now. They need to bring down the taxes. Bring down everything, for the rich, the middle class and the poor.
    9/18/2019 10:52:03 AM
    The joint list of Arab parties, who have never sat in an Israeli government, also finished strong according to the partial results, which indicated they had earned 12 seats to become the third-largest party in parliament.
     
    Should a unity government be formed, its leader Ayman Odeh would become the country's next opposition leader, an official state position that would grant him an audience with visiting dignitaries, a state-funded bodyguard, monthly consultations with the prime minister and a platform to rebut his speeches in parliament.
    9/18/2019 11:08:32 AM
    Ali Jaffaly, an Arab who owns a store in Jaffa, said he was voting for the joint list of Arab parties.
     
    He told Bel Trew
    Last time I voted for Blue and White because there wasn’t a united Arab list, it was divided.
     
    I thought, my purpose is to replace Bibi, there needs to be a change. This time I’ll vote the joint list, because now they’re united.

    I really hope that even if Bibi won’t be replaced, the joint list will somehow make a difference in the government. If they have 11, 12 mandates it’ll really make a difference.

    If Ayman Oudeh joins Gantz, I’d be supportive. So that there will be someone to make a difference to move things there. There are pros and cons but I think there will be more benefit for them to join the government than to stay alone.
    9/18/2019 11:27:21 AM
    In Gaza, Palestinians awaited the results of the vote.

    "This election affects many things in our life," said Mohamad Abdul Hay Hasaneen, a janitor in the city of Khan Younis. "There might be limited escalations after the election, but I don't think this would result in a full war."
    9/18/2019 11:51:48 AM
    Mr Netanyahu, the longest serving leader is Israeli history, had desperately sought an outright majority with his hard-line and ultra-Orthodox allies in hopes of passing legislation to give him immunity from his expected indictment.

    Israel's attorney general has recommended charging Mr Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three scandals, pending a long-awaited hearing scheduled in the coming weeks.
     
    A formal indictment would increase the pressure on Mr Netanyahu to step aside if he does not have immunity.
    9/18/2019 12:09:39 PM
    Sami Haj, 21, a delivery worker in Jaffa, told The Independent earlier this week he did not know if he would vote.
     
    He said: "There's no one to vote for. What's important to us is that there will be peace. People have stopped talking about it.
     
    "There are people here and there who went to vote, but still, no there's nothing really meaningful happening.
    It doesn't matter, it will be Bibi or no one.
     
    "Today, the situation is that Bibi is an incitor.  Anyone who goes against Bibi, I'm not talking about in the Arab sector, I'm talking about the Jewish sector - anyone who goes against Bibi is considered a traitor.
     
    "Every year it only gets worse."
    9/18/2019 12:37:45 PM
    Benny Gantz has said he has already contacted the leaders of the Democratic Union and Labor-Gesher to see if talks can begin on building a unity government, Haaretz reports.
     
    “I plan to speak to everyone,” he reportedly told supporters at a post-election rally.
    9/18/2019 12:48:45 PM
    The unifying cry across the leaflet-strewn polling stations of Israel, a country deeply divided, was “please - no more elections”, write Bel Trew and Shira Rubin.
     
    From leftists on the beach front of Tel Aviv to hard-right voters in Israeli settlements, no one could see the point in the country heading to the polls for the second time in less than six months.
     
    All were also horrified at the possibility of yet another round of voting, as opinion polls released over the weekend predicted that once again there would be no outright winner sparking fears of a third election.
     
    Many of those who spoke to The Independent blamed the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the country’s longest serving premier and despite winning the last elections in April, failed to form a ruling coalition.
     

    ‘Time to switch out the king’: Israeli voters disenchanted with Netanyahu

    Incumbent prime minister may have gone into this election all guns blazing, but some Israeli voters remain unconvinced
    9/18/2019 12:59:01 PM
    Private security guards shot and killed a Palestinian women wielding a knife at a checkpoint near Jerusalem, Israeli police have said.
     
    Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the woman was taken to hospital where she died of her wounds, and that Wednesday's incident at the Qalandia checkpoint was "being looked into".
     
    The Palestinian health ministry said video showed three Israeli security forces approaching the woman and one of them shooting her.
     
    Additional reporting by AP
    9/18/2019 1:12:01 PM
    A story from the run-up to the election...
     
    The United Nations has blasted Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank, calling it “devastating” to peace with the Palestinians, as world leaders warned it would only spark more conflict in the war-torn region, writes Bel Trew.
     
    Just a week before elections, Mr Netanyahu pledged to enforce Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and north Dead Sea area if he is re-elected.
     

    Global leaders condemn Netanyahu’s pledges to annex Jordan Valley, in occupied West Bank

    The United Nations said the plan would destroy chances of regional peace and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis
    9/18/2019 1:24:01 PM
    Iran has been suspended from international judo competition over its boycott of fights with Israeli opponents.
     
    It comes less than a month after Saeid Mollaei, the world champion, quit the Iranian team in protest at the boycott.
     
    The International Judo Federation said on Wednesday that Iran is suspended ahead of a full hearing.
     
    Iran's judo federation is accused of discriminating against Israeli athletes and breaking rules over manipulating competition results.
    9/18/2019 1:36:01 PM
    Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have realised he was in trouble in this election, as our reporting from early on election day says.
     
    A frenzied prime minister sounded the alarm about high voter turnout among Arab-Israelis and the left, calling an emergency party meeting and urging his right-wing supporters to cast their ballots, as he fought to cling on to power in an unprecedented second election, write Bel Trew and Shira Rubin.
     
    Falling back on a tried-and-tested election tack, the embattled prime minister warned his support base that they faced the prospect of an Arab-controlled government if they did not heed his call to vote.
     
    9/18/2019 1:48:15 PM
    Campaigns run by Likud and Blue and White pointed to only narrow differences on many important issues: the regional struggle against Iran, the Palestinian conflict, relations with the United States and the economy.

    An end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to bring about a significant change in policy on hotly disputed issues in the peace process with the Palestinians that collapsed five years ago.
    9/18/2019 2:10:13 PM
    Iftah Gorali told Bel Trew he was voting for the Blue and White party.
     
    He said: 
    Most people vote according to what best serves their interests. But it's also often what they don't want. Because it's hard to like politicians.

    I'm more realistic than optimistic. There's always a chance.

    What drives me in my vote is integrity and morality. I think the country has been degrading in terms of its morality, in terms of the extent of corruption... We're not living in a disconnected vacuum. We're all being affected by what goes on above.

    The corruption is just growing. There's Case 1, Case 2, already 4 cases. And we're always dealing with this. We have an entire country who most of the time is dealing with the prime minister's personal problems. Why?

    No one thinks this time will be very different, in terms of numbers. But sometimes it can hang on just a few votes.
    9/18/2019 2:32:37 PM
    With Israeli media reporting more than 90 per cent of votes counted in Tuesday's election, the bloc led by Mr Netanyahu's Likud party was more or less even with a likely grouping headed by Mr Gantz's centrist Blue and White party.

    A Likud-led bloc looked poised to control 55 of parliament's 120 seats, with 56 going to a centre-left alliance, numbers falling short of a majority government of 61 seats.
    9/18/2019 2:45:27 PM
    A Likud spokesman has said the leaders of right-wing factions have met Mr Netanyahu at the prime minister's office and pledged to work with him to form the next government.
    9/18/2019 2:54:13 PM

     Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his planned attendance at the UN General Assembly next week in the wake of the election results, according to Israeli media reports.

    A meeting between Netanyahu and Donald Trump on the sidelines of the assembly in New York will also no longer take place.

    The pair had been expected to discuss an Israel-US defence pact.

    9/18/2019 3:15:11 PM

    Blue and White now have 32 seats out of the 120 in parliament, edging past Likud on 31, according to the latest results from the Central Election Commission.

    The tally is based on a count of 63 per cent of eligible voters; overall turnout was 69.4 per cent.

    According to those partial results, Likud with its natural allies of religious and ultra-nationalist parties have mustered 55 seats - six short of the needed majority.

    9/18/2019 3:51:25 PM
    Mr Netanyahu has released a brief statement following a Likud meeting.
     
    He said on Twitter: "Once we have established the right-wing bloc, there are only two options: either a government led by me, or a dangerous government that relies on the Arab parties.
     
    "At this time, more than ever, a government that relies on the anti-Zionist Arab parties must not be established. Every effort is made to prevent such a dangerous government.
     
    "It is our commitment to the security of the State of Israel, it is our commitment to our constituents."
    9/18/2019 4:09:29 PM
    9/18/2019 4:24:59 PM
    Mr Netanyahu has remained defiant, and says he will seek to lead a ruling coalition with his religious and nationalist allies, despite falling short of a parliamentary majority in Tuesday's elections.
     
    Neither Mr Netanyahu's Likud party nor its main rival - the Blue and White party headed by former military chief of staff Benny Gantz - won enough votes to declare an outright victory.
     
    9/18/2019 4:41:36 PM
    With no clear winner in Israel’s election this week – as the Blue and White party and the incumbent Likud party are so far basically neck-and-neck, with 32 seats and 31 seats out of 120 respectively – the next governing coalition in Israel may not be formed for several weeks, writes Mairav Zonszein.
     
    While it seems unlikely Netanyahu will remain prime minister, it is still premature to count him out. But what is clear – as could have been predicted before this second election, five months after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition – is that while Netanyahu’s career as prime minister may be over, a nationalist right-wing agenda prevails.
     

    Opinion: What the Israeli election results mean for Netanyahu and Trump

    This will certainly be a blow for Jared Kushner, but Trump's cosying-up to Netanyahu might not have been for the reasons the Israeli prime minister hoped anyway
    9/18/2019 5:33:50 PM
    Donald Trump says he has not spoken to Benjamin Netanyahu about the election, which he recognised was a close-run affair.
     
    Deploying one of his favourite phrases, he told reporters: "We'll see what happens."
    9/18/2019 5:47:12 PM
    9/18/2019 6:04:10 PM
    Elsewhere in the Middle East...
     
    US president Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would impose fresh sanctions on Iran over the devastating 14 September attack on one of Saudi Arabia’s key oil facilities, writes Borzou Daragahi.
     
    In the wake of the drone strikes, world powers worried about a possible new war in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia said it had “undeniable” evidence Iran sponsored the attack, which took half the kingdom’s full oil-producing capacity offline, though the output has since been partially restored.
     
    Iran on Wednesday privately and publicly warned it would respond militarily to any attack by the US and its allies, dispatching a note to Washington through the Swiss embassy in Tehran denying responsibility for the attack.
     

    Trump vows new sanctions on Iran as Tehran warns it will respond to any military attack

    Tensions continue to simmer as US visas for key Iranian officials for UN General Assembly appear delayed
    9/18/2019 6:24:56 PM

    Seven Palestinians have been wounded after a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip exploded near a house inside the coastal enclave.

    Palestinian witnesses said two of the three rockets struck outside a home in the southern city of Rafah, and a third fell near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip.

    The Israeli military said it had identified "a failed launch attempt" from the Gaza Strip, but that no projectiles entered Israel.

    Gaza's health ministry said seven people were wounded, but did not elaborate on their condition.

    It is not clear which Palestinian militant group in Gaza was behind the rocket fire.

    Israel and Hamas reached an informal cease-fire in May, following the worst bout of fighting since a 2014 war between them, which has largely held.

    9/18/2019 7:03:07 PM

    We're ending our live coverage here now. My colleague Bel Trew will be filing a full report on the election that has left Israel in political deadlock later. 

    9/18/2019 7:21:31 PM
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