Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on path for victory in Israel's election on April 10 after almost complete results put him in position to form a right-wing coalition and further extend his long tenure in office.
As their elections were wrapping up yesterday it was obvious that it was going to be a close race, with everyone watching to see how many seats in the Knesset would be held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and how many Benny Gantz's Blue and White party could pick up.
Netanyahu looked set to be able to stay in power after Tuesday's national ballot with the support of religious-rightist parties, although both Likud and Blue and White won the same number of seats in the 120-member parliament. But early exit polls predict that even with that he would fall short of a governing majority. Official results weren't expected until Wednesday morning. It remains unclear if he will follow through on this promise, but with US President Donald Trump by his side, supporting his claims on Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights, he can be sure that Washington will back him if he chose to extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements.
Benny Gantz, the main challenger to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, conceded defeat Wednesday in the country's election.
As he walked onto the stage to chanting crowds, he planted a kiss on the lips of his wife Sara.
The vote had been expected to be close, even with Netanyahu facing potential corruption charges.
"I already began talks with the leaders of the Right-wing parties, our natural partners", Mr Netanyahu told his cheering supporters in Tel Aviv.
Shushan Levi, 61, called Gantz's performance an "enormous victory for an alliance so new".
Voting in Tel Aviv, businessman Dedi Cohen, 44, said he supported Mr Gantz.
"He was my commander in the army 40 years ago".
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He engaged in populist rhetoric critics said amounted to the demonisation of Arab Israelis and others.
As CNN discovered when it visited a stronghold of his party Likud, in the desert town of Beersheva several weeks ago, that message resonates strongly with many blue-collar Israelis. Arab politicians condemned the move as voter intimidation.
In reality, however, most Arab states, in particular the leaders of Saudi Arabia, don't care much about Palestine's fate.
Such a move would previously have been nearly unthinkable, leaving Israel diplomatically isolated.
Besides Trump, other Netanyahu allies including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz offered congratulations.
Netanyahu has also relied on the seeming support of foreign right-wing leaders to a surprising degree.
One factor may be the turnout of voters from Israel's 21 percent Arab minority.
The results from Tuesday´s vote came despite corruption allegations against the 69-year-old premier and put him on track to become Israel´s longest-serving prime minister later this year.
"This rotating [premiership] agreement between Gantz and lapid was ruinous and it assured that the ultra-Orthodox will ... recommend Netanyahu". He opposes unilateral moves. "And Netanyahu will play a big, big part in that, along with President Trump". Gantz, a career soldier who retired as chief of staff in 2015, entered politics previous year for the first time, joining forces with two other former army chiefs.