Israeli acting prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to his supporters that he will build a new ruling coalition and said that the next government could not depend on Arab parties.
Netanyahu spoke half an hour after Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed to do the same. Amid chants of “no to a unity government,” the prime minister said that all of the Likud’s current coalition partners want to build a coalition.
As counting got underway, exit poll projections showed Netanyahu — the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister — and former military chief Benny Gantz locked in a tight race.
Just after polling stations closed across Israel, the country’s three main TV stations flashed the result of their individual exit polls — showing Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party neck and neck with Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party.
Netanyahu, who has been leading the executive since 2009 (and had previously served as Premier between 1996-99) said he had already initiated negotiations with Likud’s potential coalition partners on the right.
“They all committed to pursue our goals together,” he said, as his supporters chanted “We don’t want unity!” – a reference to speculation that Likud could ally with it’s main rival Blue and White in these polls.
Early on Wednesday, Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader Avigdor Lieberman reiterated that he would only support a government comprising both Likud and Blue and White.
However, Blue and White has ruled out sitting with Netanyahu in a coalition. Instead, Gantz offered to form a national unity government and said he had already reached out to the heads of the two centre-left Zionist parties, the Labour party and the Democratic Union.
(With Agencies inputs)