PM rival Gantz congratulates Netanyahu after final results

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The poor showing by their New Right party, which had been projected to be a major potential coalition partner, was one of the upsets of the election.

For India, relations with newfound ally Israel can only get trickier as it negotiates, keeping on the right side of both Tel Aviv and Tehran, while living with the consequences of abandoning the Palestinians to their fate.

Benny Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White party who had challenged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called to congratulate him Friday after Israel's final election results showed the prime minister poised to win a fifth term.

Few doubt, it will translate into Mr Netanyahu scrapping the two-state solution altogether, with his proposed annexation of the West Bank and refusal to give up Israeli settlements a signal that Gaza could be the Palestinians' only refuge.

"Tonight, I already began talks with the leaders of the right-wing parties, our natural partners".

"West Bank annexation is a topic that is now being debated in Israel, and was endorsed right before the election by Prime Minister Netanyahu himself as an electoral pledge", it said. Japan has continued to identify its differences with the US on key Middle East issues, from Israel to Iran (it prefers engagement with Tehran to isolation, the Trump administration's default policy).

It was not clear what he meant.

Trump almost always backs Netanyahu and has given him a series of wins: Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, taking tough steps against Iran.

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange main indexes were up almost 1 percent in late trading on Wednesday, displaying confidence in a veteran prime minister who has overseen a humming economy and blunted various security threats, including from Syria.

Gantz, a former military chief of staff, and Yair Lapid promised to keep their Blue and White party together despite their defeat.

Netanyahu's campaign against Arab politicians, together with a new alliance with anti-Arab extremists and the passage past year of a contentious nation-state law that enshrined Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people alone, deepened calls for an election boycott in Arab communities. However, the right-wing bloc in the parliament secured a majority big enough to make Netanyahu highly likely to form the next coalition government. In one of the president's only non-ceremonial roles, he asks that leader to form a government within 42 days.

Intensive coalition negotiations could drag on for days or even weeks.

His office said the consultations would be broadcast live in their entirety for the first time. Netanyahu, along with Israeli politics, has drifted steadily to the right since he returned to power a decade ago and his increasingly hard line has reduced opportunities to find common ground with Palestinians.

"We will stand together", Gantz said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The close race between the two main parties had led to uncertainty after polls closed Tuesday night and exit surveys were released.

Every ruling party faces challenges after a decade in power - voter fatigue is nearly inescapable - but Netanyahu's future has been clouded by allegations of corruption, charges he denies. And he won despite expectations that his own attorney general will indict him for alleged bribery and fraud.

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