Despite a close race in Israel’s April 9 snap elections, Benjamin Netanyahu won his fifth consecutive term, making him the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history.
Various exit polls, reported through Haaretz’ live coverage, originally showed Netanyahu either tied or slightly behind Benny Gantz of the Kahol Lavan party. As the ballots were counted through the night, the two parties remained tied at 35 seats, even after 94% of the votes were calculated.
According to The Times of Israel, out of 96% of the votes calculated, 26.47% were for the Likud, and 26.11% for the Kahol Lavan. Though they both declared themselves winners of the election on the previous day, Gantz conceded to Netanyahu following the final count.
The snap elections were in part due to allegations of corruption against Netanyahu and his family, for which Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit chose to indict him in March 2019.
Additionally, with the political falling out between Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the prime minister was left with a slight majority in the Knesset. Netanyahu subsequently dissolved the Knesset altogether while calling for early elections.
Just before the election, President Donald Trump made the decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory on March 26 during Netanyahu’s visit to D.C. Additionally, Netanyahu released a statement on April 7, saying he would move to annex the West Bank if re-elected, according to according to The New York Times.
Voter turnout dropped 4% this year to 67.9%. However, for Arab populations, turnout was historically low, with a 50% turnout as opposed to 63% in 2015, Al-Monitor reports. This was partly due to a call to boycott the elections as a result of the past year’s events, including the Nation-State Bill. Additionally, as voting was under way, some 1,200 body cameras were found to have been dispatched by the Likud party to election-day observers in order to monitor what they called “problem Arabs,” The Times of Israel reported.
Out of 120 available seats, Netanyahu’s Likud party now holds 36 of them in the Knesset, up from 30 in the previous election, while Kahol Lavan finished with 35. Haaretz reported the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties each finished with eight seats, while Israeli Arab party Hadash Ta’al and Israel’s original Labor party each received five.
The Likud party formed alliances with four other parties—the UTJ, centrist Kulanu and the right-wing Ihud Mifleget Hayamin and Yisrael Beiteinu parties. This gives the right-wing bloc a 65-55 majority which places Netanyahu head of the next coalition government.