Netanyahu remained defiant in the early hours of Wednesday morning as exit polls showed Blue and White beating Likud.
By David Isaac, World Israel News Staff
The hall at the Tel Aviv Convention Center was more than half empty when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at around 3:00 a.m. to give a combative speech as early election projections showed him trailing his main rival Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party.
Netanyahu focused on the fact that Blue and White would need to rely on the Arab Joint List to form a government.
“There will not be and cannot be a government that relies on anti-Zionist Arab parties that deny the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Parties that glorify and praise the bloodthirsty terrorists who murder our soldiers, our citizens,” he said.
“This evening I spoke to all the partners of the Likud in the right-wing camp,” Netanyahu said.
“All of them, without exception, have made an unequivocal commitment to a common goal… In the coming days, we will enter into negotiations to establish a strong Zionist government and to prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government.”
Although Netanyahu expressed defiance, the atmosphere in the convention center hall was grim. As Netanyahu entered, the mood more resembled a funeral than a post-election party.
Likud party members who stood in line to welcome the prime minister appeared less to greet him than to offer condolences. Even though the exit polls were unofficial, they were deemed accurate enough to show that the Likud hadn’t achieved its hoped-for Knesset majority.
Netanyahu repeated his message that he is best suited to lead the country due to his close relations with President Donald Trump.
“In the near future, my friend President Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ will be presented and the way that negotiations with the president are handled will shape the future of the State of Israel for generations,” he said.
“At this time, for all these purposes, Israel needs a strong government, a stable government, a Zionist government. A government committed to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
The prime minister said the country was at a “historical point,” noting its security concerns, in particular the existential threat from Iran. He said that the Likud party was best suited to lead the state through this delicate time.
“In recent years, we have brought defensive strength, economic prosperity and political prosperity that are unparalleled in Israeli history,” he said. “We must ensure that these achievements, that we all worked hard to achieve, are maintained in the years to come.
The electoral situation for the Likud improved somewhat by morning. While the Arab List was predicted to gain 15 Knesset seats, the number has since shrunk to 12. And while earlier results showed Blue and White beating Likud, the two parties are now running neck-and-neck at 32 seats apiece.