Exit Polls: Israeli Election Too Close to Call

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2019-04-09

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Israel's parliamentary election is too close to call, exit polls say, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz both claim wins.

One Israeli TV exit poll puts Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party slightly ahead. Another TV station gives former military chief Gantz and his centrist Blue and White Party the edge.

But if neither party wins a majority in the 120-member parliament, they may have to rely on allied parties to form a ruling coalition.

Netanyahu is hoping to win a fifth term as prime minister even as he faces corruption charges. He spent the days leading up to Tuesday’s election solidifying his conservative base, vowing to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank. Such a move could end any chance of creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"Who else can do this? Who can do this? Come on. Honestly," Netanyahu said, portraying himself as the face of Israel.

"Who can stand in front of the world?" he asked. "Who can stand in front of the American Congress? Who can move public opinion in that direction?"

The 59-year-old Gantz called Netanyahu's pledge "irresponsible." Gantz said he favors a "globally backed peace agreement" that envisions Israel maintaining its hold on the large settlement blocs in the West Bank and security control over the territory.

Gantz has portrayed himself as a unifying force in Israel and said it is time to oust Netanyahu from power.

"There's a need for change and an opportunity for change," Gantz told Israel's army radio on Monday. "Israel needs to choose a direction of unification, connection and hope -- not of extremity."

"Enough already, Bibi," Gantz's campaign videos say, using Netanyahu's widely known nickname.

Should he win, Netanyahu would be on track later this year to become Israel's longest-serving leader, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion.

But Netanyahu also faces an ongoing criminal investigation.

Pending an upcoming hearing, the Israeli attorney general says he plans to indict Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. 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.