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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wins Close Race

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In a hotly contested election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected by a narrow margin. It also appears that Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party has won 35 of the 120 seats in Israel’s Parliament (Knesset). When combined with other right-wing parties, it appears Netanyahu will have a majority of 65 seats.

Netanyahu’s opponent, Benny Gantz told his party, “It’s looking bleak, but the results are not yet final. It’s possible that there will be electoral shifts.”

But Netanyahu has already declared victory. “This is an unimaginable achievement. I am very moved tonight,” Netanyahu said in a speech. He continued, “I am very excited that the people of Israel once again trusted me.”

Pending criminal charges

It’s likely Netanyahu’s 5th term as prime minister will not be without controversy. Israel’s attorney general will likely bring bribery and fraud charges against Netanyahu later in the year. With the majority in Parliament, a coalition could pass legislation to prevent prosecution until after the prime minister’s term in office is completed.

In addition, a last-minute campaign promise to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank. The moved is considered illegal by most international law. If the promise is kept, it could create an even larger crisis in the Middle East. The West Bank of Israel has traditionally been considered a joint state between Israel and Palestinians. Annexation would result in even more unrest in an already violent area of the world.

President Donald Trump, who supports Jewish sovereignty in Israel, has feathered prominently in Netanyahu campaign ads. Trump has made several policy which may have aided Netanyahu’s re-election. Among them, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, backing out of Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and recognizing the Golan Heights as a part of Israel. All moves seen as strengthening Netanyahu’s re-election bid.

American Jews unhappy with close alliance

Some left-leaning American Jews label the relationship between the two world leaders as “repugnant.” They fear the Trump-Netanyahu alliance will be too right leaning. However, sentiments in Israel seem to be the opposite. They feel intermarriages of American Jews have lessened family ties with Israel. Some even say they feel that Evangelical Christians are better allies than American Jews.

President Donald Trump did not express preference for either candidate in the election, stating he felt results would be close, and that both men are “good people.”

Sarah Morton

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