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Netanyahu set to remain Israel PM after surprise poll result

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  19 March 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Jerusalem, March 18: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing Likud party on Wednesday took a clear-cut lead over the centre-left Zionist Union in the Israeli general elections and the Palestinian presidency reacted to the surprise results by saying that there will be no peace in the Middle East without establishing a Palestinian state. Tallying 99 percent of the ballots, results showed the Likud party had garnered 30 seats out of the overall 120 parliamentary seats, with the Zionist Union winning 24 seats.

Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that he intended to form a new Israeli government within two to three weeks, Efe news agency reported.

He has already spoken to the parliamentary party leaders he considers as possible coalition partners, according to a Likud party statement issued on Wednesday morning.

The prime minister spoke with party leaders ftali Bennet of the Jewish Home party, Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu, Aryeh Deri of Shas, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, and Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism.

Netanyahu seeks, with the support of these parties, to achieve a majority of 67 seats in the 120-seat Knesset through a right-wing, ultra-orthodox alliance.

Zionist Union leader Yitzhak Herzog called Netanyahu on Wednesday morning to congratulate him on his victory, Xinhua news agency reported.

“I welcome any result. I’ve spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and congratulated him on his achievements,” Herzog said in a statement. Herzog said he was planning to continue heading the Zionist Union camp, which many polls predicted would secure a lead over the Likud, along with Tzipi Livni.

Herzog and Livni formed the Zionist Union by joining their Labour and Hatnua parties, respectively, in December 2014 amid upcoming elections.

Although Herzog did not reveal whether the list would join Netanyahu’s upcoming coalition or operate in the Israeli parliament opposition, member Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said Herzog clarified to her they would not join a coalition headed by the Likud party.

“I spoke with Herzog this morning... he explicitly told me we are moving towards the opposition,” Yechimovich told Army Radio on Wednesday. The results Wednesday also showed that left-wing Meretz acquired four seats in the upcoming Knesset, two less than their six in the 2013 elections, barely passing the new electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the votes.

Meretz’s chairwoman Zehava Galon announced on Wednesday morning that if — once 100 percent of the votes are counted — the party presence remained at four seats, she would resign her post to make room in the Knesset for number five on the party’s list, member of Knesset Tamar Zandberg. The election results easily eble Netanyahu to establish a government along with the Jewish Home (which won eight seats), Israel Beytenu (six seats), the ultra-orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism (15 combined). Netanyahu calls these parties his right wing “tural allies”.

Netanyahu still needs increased support set to come from Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud member who in 2014 established the Kulanu party, which got 10 seats. Kahlon told reporters Wednesday morning he spoke with Netanyahu who seemed “serious in his intentions”.

“There were never any persol issues between us, there were ideological differences, and I certainly hope to patch them up,” Kahlon said. According to another Xinhua report from Ramallah, a senior Palestinian official reiterated on Wednesday after the Israeli election results were out that without establishing a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, “there will be no peace in the Middle East”.

“The Palestinian position is the same Arab position that what is needed from the Israeli government is to be committed to the two-state solution and east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state,” bil Abu Rdineh, spokesman of the Palestinian presidency, said.

He said the Palestinians did not care who the Israeli prime minister was as “what we want is to see an Israeli government that recognises the two-state solution and east Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state”. On the eve of the elections, Netanyahu repeated his rejection to the establishment of a Palestinian state and considered the city of Jerusalem the united and eterl capital of the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee, told Xinhua that Likud’s victory in the elections “is a victory of racism and for the occupation and settlement”. He slammed the right wing in Israel as “a psychic society similar to the minority white community in South Africa”, adding that “the Palestinians shouldn’t be panicked or confused, because we have our means of response”. (IANS)

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