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What ‘total victory for Netanyahu’ means for Israel and beyond

Near final results in Israel’s elections show both the parties of Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponent, Benny Gantz, winning 35 seats in the national legislature, called the Knesset. But minor parties aligned with Netanyahu’s Likud give that party a majority. John Yang reports from Tel Aviv on how corruption charges weren’t enough to stop Netanyahu’s momentum and what his success means for peace.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return to Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent victory.

    John Yang is covering the election for us, and, tonight, he's in Tel Aviv.

  • John Yang:

    After a nail-biter of a night that saw both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger, retired Army General Benny Gantz, declare victory, Israelis awoke this morning to near-final results showing Netanyahu's Likud Party and Gantz's Blue and White, both center-right, each winning 35 seats in the 120-member Israeli legislature called the Knesset.

    But including the seats of minor parties aligned with Likud, Netanyahu appears to have a clear advantage of as many as 65 seats, a majority.

    And, late today, Gantz conceded defeat.

  • Aluf Benn:

    Total victory for Netanyahu.

  • John Yang:

    Aluf Benn is editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

  • Aluf Benn:

    There is not enough Netanyahu fatigue. Obviously, all those who voted for Gantz and for different parties, they voted to oust Netanyahu, but it wasn't enough to make him leave his job.

  • John Yang:

    President Trump was among the world leaders offering congratulations.

  • Donald Trump:

    So, the fact that Bibi won, I think we will see some pretty good action in terms of peace.

  • John Yang:

    In the streets of Tel Aviv today, voters engaged in a national pastime, expressing their opinions. Bike store manager Ronen Friedman voted for Netanyahu.

  • Ronen Friedman (through translator):

    I feel that something great was done in Israel. The public has spoken

    So did Roni Shvili:

  • Roni Shvili (through translator):

    I'm glad about the outcome, because I think Bibi is doing an amazing job.

  • John Yang:

    Psychotherapist Talia Haim voted for the once powerful Labor Party, which was aligned with Gantz.

  • Talia Haim (through translator):

    I'm really upset. I'm really sad. I think that we really needed a change. And it's a shame that once again it's staying the same.

  • John Yang:

    Software engineer Sajajr Wider voted for Gantz, and holds out hope for Netanyahu's coalition partners.

  • Sajajr Wider (through translator):

    I would like the coalition to be people who care about the country, meaning leaving the right- and left-wing extremists out and probably the Hasidic Jews as well.

  • John Yang:

    The election gives Likud its biggest share of Knesset seats since 2006. Analysts say that simplifies Netanyahu's coalition-building and makes his government relatively stable, since a single minor party will not be able to bring it down.

    Analysts say reelection allows Netanyahu to say he has a mandate to fight looming corruption charges.

  • Aluf Benn:

    He can argue that the Israeli public, knowing what the charges are, knowing what he supposedly did to break the law, despite that, voted to keep him in office. In other words, keeping Netanyahu in office is more important than enforcing the white-collar criminal law on the country's top politician.

  • John Yang:

    Following Netanyahu's pledge to begin annexing the West Bank, the results highlight the Israeli public's rejection of the two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict.

    Tal Schneider is diplomatic correspondent for the Israeli financial newspaper Globes.

  • Tal Schneider:

    We keep hearing the two-state solution coming from European allies and from the United States, but if you start to talk to the people on the streets, they will tell you, most of them, we don't believe in a Palestinian state ever.

  • John Yang:

    Trump administration officials say they will release their peace plan soon. While Israeli voters kept their prime minister, they also gave a platform to a new leader fighting against him.

    The results represent a significant accomplishment for Gantz, a first-time candidate, and thrust his new party into the role of the opposition. The role of opposition leader could be a new and unfamiliar one for Gantz, who was Netanyahu's army chief of staff.

  • Aluf Benn:

    It's not an easy task for someone with zero experience in politics. He was in the military, where you reach your goals from giving orders, not from negotiations, like in politics.

  • Tal Schneider:

    Imagine to yourself, he has two chief of staff with him, like, two other former chief IDF. One was also a defense minister. And this respectable, honorable group will just have to start writing bills and laws from bottom up.

    And it's not going to be — it's going to be fun for reporters, because they're going to make lots of mistakes, but it's not going to be easy for them.

  • John Yang:

    For now, Netanyahu is headed to a fifth straight term as prime minister, and poised to soon surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as the longest serving leader ever.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang in Tel Aviv.

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