Netanyahu win gives U.S. peace plan 'better chance'

Head of the Blue White party Benny Gantz and his top allies Moshe Ya'alon Gabi Ashkenazi and Yair Lapid greet their party supporters following the release of election exit polls at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv

Both Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz, leader of the rival Blue and White party, declared victory in speeches to boisterous gatherings of supporters.

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 the top job. Some 40 parties took part in the election, and only those that receive at least 3.25% of the votes make it into parliament.

Netanyahu has an advantage as almost all right-wing parties have declared their support to the Israeli leader, Israeli media reported.

"The digital effort here was in the micro-targeting - getting the "right" people to come out and vote after creating pressure on the Arabs not to", Altshuler said.

First Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's former military chief, appeared on stage calling himself "Israel's next prime minister".

The vote was expected to lead to frantic negotiations to form a coalition, even though Mr Netanyahu faced corruption charges.

"Netanyahu is on his way to forming another right-wing government, with a clear majority and far-right members, perhaps in significant ministerial positions", said Dr Nimrod Goren, director of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitzvim). 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 worldwide law.

He called Netanyahu's annexation pledge an "irresponsible" bid for votes.

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But the deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, Tom Watson, said his party was on election footing. Mr Macron said if a decision were not made soon, Britain would have chosen a "de facto" no-deal Brexit.

Additionally, Netanyahu courted more overtly racist elements of the Israeli far right as he eyed reelection.

All three exit polls showed Netanyahu more likely to be able to do so with smaller rightwing parties allied to him in the 120-seat parliament.

Buttu said that for as long as Netanyahu has been prime minister, the Palestinian Authority has been urging the worldwide community to intervene during the bombing of Gaza, construction of settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, passage of the nation-state law and regarding the annexation of the West Bank.

Just ahead of polling, Netanyahu pitched for right-wing voters who might be tempted to back other nationalist factions, suggesting that he could annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank that Palestinians want for the heartland of a future state. PA sources say that they have no practical ways to prevent this. The president, whose responsibilities are mostly ceremonial, is charged with choosing a prime minister after consulting with party leaders and determining who has the best chance of putting together a majority coalition.

"Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo". They, our voters, sought hope, and we will give it to them. Challenged on election day, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, refused to say what the U.S. would do if the Israeli government tried to annex parts of the West Bank.

In another sign of Israel's current feeling of strength, PM Netanyahu insisted last week that he would refuse removal of any Jewish settlements built inside occupied Palestinian land as part of any peace plan.

Trump also caused controversy previous year 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.

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