Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party appeared neck-and-neck with the centrist Blue and White party led by his former chief of staff Benny Gantz. With Israeli media reporting more than 97% of the vote counted, both sides were projected to win 35 seats each.But based on latest tallies, Netanyahu looked to have a clearer path back to power. A Likud-led bloc could secure 65 places in the 120-strong Knesset by combining seats won by the two ultra-orthodox religious parties, which both polled well, with those of smaller right-wing parties. A center-left bloc led by Gantz and supported by the Arab parties would only muster 55 seats.Gantz admitted that Netanyahu held the advantage. The “odds may not seem in our favor,” he said in a note to party colleagues Wednesday morning, although he insisted the results “tell an unfinished story.”Netanyahu claimed victory Tuesday night. “The right-wing bloc led by the Likud won a clear victory. I thank the citizens of Israel for the trust. I will start forming a right-wing government with our natural partners as soon as tonight,” Netanyahu said.The electoral picture could change if some of the smaller right-wing parties decided to support Gantz, a move observers say is unlikely. The votes of diplomats abroad and soldiers are yet to be counted.If Netanyahu secures his cherished fifth term, he will become Israel’s longest-serving leader in the summer, overtaking David Ben-Gurion, the country’s founder.Officially, it’s up to Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, to decide who is tasked with forming the next government. Rivlin will announce his decision after consulting with the heads of the political parties that have secured enough votes to enter the Knesset. These consultations take a few days, and the President is likely to announce his decision in about a week.In the final days of the campaign, Netanyahu veered sharply to the right, pledging to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected, and warning his voter base that the end of his strong right-wing government would signal the beginning of a weak left-wing government.Netanyahu fought the election in the face of looming indictments for bribery and breach of trust offenses, which he sought to portray as a witch-hunt led by left-wing elites and fed by the media. The date for a final hearing in the case is yet to be set.At first, Netanyahu faced a diverse array of opponents. But then three former army chiefs come together with a TV news anchor-turned-politician to create the Blue and White party, named after the colors of the Israeli flag. Led by Gantz, a former head of the army under Netanyahu, Blue and White’s polling numbers surged, and the election quickly became a two-horse race.Netanyahu — known to supporters and detractors alike as “Bibi” — focused on burnishing his status as a global player with close ties to both the President of the United States and the President of Russia.In a visit to Washington made by Netanyahu during the campaign, Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in defiance of the overwhelming international consensus. And in the election’s closing days, on a visit to Moscow, Netanyahu was able to personally thank Vladimir Putin for Russia’s key role in locating the body of an Israeli soldier who had been missing in Lebanon for nearly 37 years.With his victory all but certain, attention will now turn to the corruption case. The Supreme Court will rule on whether Netanyahu can continue in office if he is charged.For his part, Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

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