Israel's Netanyahu appears headed toward 5th term as PM

Israelis head to polls as Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks fifth term

Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election on Wednesday, and a record fifth term in office, with religious-rightist parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority, despite a close contest against his main centrist challenger.

In the end, voters kept to the right in granting a fifth term to a leader who has a reputation for getting things done, despite an array of former generals who stood against him - and were dismissed by Netanyahu as the "weak left". "We will make Likud's life hell in the opposition".

"People say: I don't care if he is corrupt or not, I don't care if he took a few cigars or presents, the main thing is that, from my point of view, the economy is growing and there is security", Ariel University lecturer Erez Cohen said. The president was on a flight to Texas. It looks like that race has been won by him.

Trump predicted a boost to his administration's promised plan for a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians, angered by what they see as Mr Trump's pro-Israel bias, have called it a non-starter.

He said that according to the laws of Israel, if no party gains an absolute majority of votes (61 mandates) following the election, the country's president will order one of the parties with the most votes to form a government.

The results of the elections will determine Netanyahu's political future, as he faces serious corruption allegations and a possible indictment.

In February, Israel's attorney general said he meant to indict Netanyahu in three separate cases of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

"It is a night of colossal victory", the 69-year-old Mr Netanyahu told cheering supporters in a late-night speech at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv after the vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on his way to a fourth consecutive term.

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

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"It's a night of tremendous victory", Netanyahu told supporters early Wednesday. If he is re-appointed prime minister, he'll be the longest-serving prime minister in Israel's history.

During the campaign, the rival parties accused each other of corruption, fostering bigotry and being soft on security.

Liberman, 60, has built the party around a base of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union. He excoriated Gantz as a friend to Israel's 20-percent Arab minority and the darling of liberal media - codes, to many conservative ears, for dangers to the Jewish state.

Due to the strong resistance to the Israeli religious establishment on the part of numerous immigrants who Liberman represents, Yisrael Beytenu has found itself at loggerheads in the past with Haredi parties when they promoted legislation relating to religious matters.

Last month, Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Golan Heights as part of Israel, a move that overturned longstanding US policy concerning the region.

The Palestinians demand a full return to the borders that existed before the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu tweeted that Trump had called him from Air Force One.

Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are not Israeli citizens and can not vote. "They have said no to peace and yes to the occupation".

That could mean revisiting longstanding U.S. support for the creation of a future Palestinian state.

And Trump was quick to declare that his upcoming Middle East peace plan has "a better chance now that Bibi has won".

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