Israel votes in hotly contested poll, Netanyahu appears to win – Congratulations:)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces his wife Sara amid confetti during his victory speech before supporters at Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv after April 9, 2019's elections. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has all but secured a 5th term on Wednesday morning, after more than 95 percent of the votes gave the right-wing bloc a 10-seat lead over the left.

>> Israel election 2019: Full coverage

Netanyahu’s Likud tied with Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party with 35 seats each. Both leaders made victory speeches after the exit polls, vowing to be “everyone’s prime minister.”

But almost all right-wing parties have said they would recommend to the president that Netanyahu form the next ruling coalition. Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s Hayamin Hehadash, as well as the far-right Zehut party led by Moshe Feiglin and Orly Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher did not make it past the electoral threshold.

Turnout has been historically low in the Arab community, according to pollsters. Netanyahu’s Likud party provided activists with 1,200 hidden cameras “to monitor” Arab polling stations — a move that prompted Israel’s Central Elections Committee to file a police complaint. 

9:37 A.M. Lieberman: I’ll either join a Likud government or stay in opposition

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday he would not recommend Benny Gantz to the president to form a coalition. Speaking to the Ynet news site, the former defense minister said such a scenario “doesn’t exist.”

Lieberman said his party would either join a government led by Netanyahu or stay in the opposition. “It needs to be understood that Smotrich and Rabbi Peretz are no less Orthodox than Shas and United Torah Judaism,” he said, referring to the leaders of the Union of Right-Wing Parties. “We won’t give up our principles, our agenda is clear,” said Lieberman, who ran on a secular, right-wing platform which included mandatory army conscription for the ultra-Orthodox. Read more:

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