Trump congratulates Netanyahu; Gantz officially concedes defeat

Not long after Trump tweeted congratulations to the prime minister, the Blue and White party head promised staunch opposition to the upcoming Netanyahu-led government.

By Associated Press

Israel’s Blue and White party leaders conceded defeat in Israel’s election on Wednesday evening, saying they will work against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the opposition.

Yair Lapid, the party’s No. 2 figure, told a press conference Wednesday that though his party “did not win in this round, I respect the voters.”

He said his party will “embitter” Netanyahu’s life from the opposition.

The Blue and White party, headed by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, drew even with Netanyahu’s Likud party, but the incumbent prime minister is poised to form a government with his larger bloc of religious and right-wing allies.

While Gantz claimed his party “founded true alternative rule to Netanyahu,” he will not be appointed to serve as prime minister in the upcoming government.

Netanyahu announced that U.S. President Donald Trump had called to congratulate him on his election win from Air Force One.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement Wednesday saying Trump “warmly congratulated” Netanyahu, who thanked the president for his “great support for Israel,” including the White House’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Earlier, Trump tweeted a photo of “Trump flags being waived at the Bibi @netanyahu VICTORY celebration last night!”

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Netanyahu campaigned on his foreign policy victories and close relations with world leaders — Trump in particular.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin says his talks with political parties are to begin next week, in the run-up to picking the leader he thinks has the best chance of forming a stable governing coalition.

Rivlin added Wednesday that, for the first time, his meetings with party leaders would be broadcast on live television “in the name of transparency.”

Although the president acts largely in a ceremonial capacity, he is charged with choosing a candidate for prime minister after hearing recommendations from the heads of all factions. He will then task the leading candidate with forming a government within 42 days.

Netanyahu appears poised to be the president’s choice, with election results giving Likud and other right-wing and religious parties a solid majority in parliament.