Projected results of Israel election

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Both Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz, leader of the rival Blue and White party, declared victory in speeches to boisterous gatherings of supporters.

With some 97 percent of votes in Tuesday's contest counted, his Likud party was tied with Blue and White, but his right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc held a decisive lead and Netanyahu was thus safely en route to forming a majority governing coalition.

Buttu said that for as long as Netanyahu has been prime minister, the Palestinian Authority has been urging the global community to intervene during the bombing of Gaza, construction of settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, passage of the nation-state law and regarding the annexation of the West Bank.

Earlier in the night, with fewer of the votes counted, Blue and White still appeared to be ahead by one seat and Gantz projected optimism.

That meant, Zalzberg said, that "even those right-wing voters frustrated with Netanyahu's conduct went with him".

Israel's attorney general has recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

"They have said no to peace and yes to the occupation", he said. Israel's central elections commission banned parties from bringing cameras into polling stations after Likud party activists were caught with hidden cameras in Arab towns.

Should his party form a coalition, Netanyahu would be on track later this year to become Israel's longest-serving leader, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion.

Second, the election confirms that the Trump administration will give both unstintingly and enthusiastically to the Israeli right.

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Under Netanyahu's watch, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US Embassy there, withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, endorsed Israeli control of the Golan Heights and officially designated Tehran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group.

Netanyahu has called the Israeli probes a "witch hunt", echoing his good friend, U.S. President Donald Trump, who used the same words to describe the investigation of his 2016 election campaign.

"The common features of these parties are that, firstly, they are right-wing parties, I would even say the far-right-wing parties, which has been indicated even in their names", he said.

At the sessions, which Rivlin said would be broadcast live "to ensure transparency", he will then pick a party leader to try to form a coalition, giving the candidate 28 days to do so, with a two-week extension if needed.

People call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "the magician".

Gantz, a 59-year-old former general, frequently attacked Netanyahu during the campaign over allegations of corrupt behaviour by the longtime prime minister. He tapped into some of the most politically conservative Israeli voters when he promised to annex Jewish West Bank settlements if re-elected, he said Saturday according to The New York Times. But the victor might not be announced immediately as no party has ever won an outright majority in parliament.

It was a much different atmosphere at MSNBC, where Chris Matthews did not take Netanyahu's expected victory well.

Gantz said he favored a "globally backed peace agreement" with Israel holding on to the large West Bank settlement blocs, adding he opposed unilateral moves.

"This is a clear beginning of Netanyahu's fifth term, but his fifth term might end up being his shortest one", said Reuven Hazan, a political scientist from Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

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