Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared neither victory nor defeat following the results of Israel’s Tuesday elections, but lashed out at Israel’s Arab parties and appeared to lay the groundwork for an attack on any attempt by his rival Benny Gantz to collaborate with them.
For his part, Gantz emphasized that the election results remain unclear, but he pledged to bring unity and heal what he described as a divided Israeli society.
Most exit polls are predicting a nearly even division between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White parties, with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party poised to be the kingmaker and the Arab party the Joint List possibly playing a decisive role as well.
Given that Lieberman upended Netanyahu’s last attempt to form a government in April after his demands for religious reforms were rejected by Netanyahu’s Haredi coalition partners, and that Netanyahu requires the Haredi parties to form a majority government, it is unlikely that Lieberman will join a coalition led by Netanyahu.
Arriving at Likud party headquarters on Tuesday evening, Netanyahu thanked his supporters and apologized for a hoarse throat, which he said he’d acquired thanks to 24 hours of non-stop campaigning.
He cited his accomplishments as prime minister, saying, “In recent years, we have brought powerful security, economic prosperity, and political blossoming that were unparalleled in the State of Israel.”
“We must ensure that these achievements that we have all worked hard for will continue in the years to come,” Netanyahu asserted.
Noting that President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” will soon be presented, Netanyahu said, “The way the negotiations with the president are handled will shape the future of the State of Israel for generations.”
For this reason, Netanyahu said, “Israel needs a strong and stable government, a Zionist government committed to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Turning to a harsh attack on the country’s Arab parties in an oblique reference to the Joint List, which is projected to win 13-15 seats in the next Knesset and possibly recommend Gantz as prime minister, Netanyahu said, “There will not be and cannot be a government that relies on non-Zionist Arab parties.”
He claimed that the Arab parties support “bloodthirsty terrorists who kill our soldiers, our citizens, and our children.”
In an apparent pledge to fight on, Netanyahu said, “In the coming days, we will enter into negotiations to form a strong Zionist government and to prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government. This is the order of the hour: A government that unites most of the people and does not exclude anyone who believes in Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
For his part, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who was widely mocked for making a premature victory speech in April, was far more careful this time, but nonetheless stated, “According to the apparent results, Netanyahu was not successful in his mission.”
“We, unlike him, proved that the idea called Blue and White, an initiative that began before a little more than half a year ago, succeeded greatly,” Gantz asserted.
“According to the results that are in our hands at the moment, it seems that for the second time the citizens of Israel gave us their trust,” he said. “More than a million citizens said no to incitement and divisiveness, and yes to unity. No to corruption and yes to clean hands.”
“Tonight, the journey begins to repair Israeli society,” he declared.
“Of course, we will wait for the final results, but as it appears now, we have accomplished the mission and accomplished it in our way,” he said.
“Israeli society is strong and vital,” Gantz stated. “At the same time, it is wounded and it is time to heal it. We will seek and find consensus from Israeli citizens and share a common prayer for the peace of the state and the peace of all its citizens.”
Gantz said that he has already been in touch with Labor party head Amir Peretz and Democratic Union chairman Nitzan Horowitz, and that he intends to talk to Lieberman. He did not mention any other possible coalition partners.
He also appeared to endorse Lieberman’s statement that he will only accept a unity government.
“Starting tonight we will work for the establishment of a unity government that will express the will of the people and the majority of society,” Gantz said. “We will act with holy dedication and with a desire to bring Israeli society back on track.”
Gantz also called for unity beyond political divisions, saying, “Before and over politics we are one people and one society. Reconciliation and unity stand before us. I also call on my political rivals — let’s work together for a good and just and equitable Israeli society for all its citizens.”
“Last night I was at the Western Wall and asked ‘bring peace upon us and make peace within us.’ I will work with all my power to realize this mission,” he added.
Blue and White’s number two, Yair Lapid, echoed Gantz’s message of unity, saying, “Israeli citizens proved today that they are better than their politics. The extremists stayed out of the Knesset, the politics of hatred failed, the people who tried to scare us were removed from the polls, and Israeli values returned to center stage.”
“In the coming days we will need patience,” he cautioned. “It is a long and complex process, which in the end will produce a result.”
Source: the algemeiner