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Israeli PM Netanyahu looks set to lose power after election gamble backfires

19 September 2019

Netanyahu's conservative Likud party and rival Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party failed to win enough votes in the repeat election to form a coalition government of at least 61 seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament. The Electoral Commission in Israel only releases voting figures, without any declarations of a victor.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeing his chances of outright victory slipping as the final votes from this week's election were counted, called Thursday for a power-sharing agreement with his chief political rival - who promptly shot him down.

Both parties would require partners to establish a government with a ruling majority.

Speaking at at memorial ceremony for the late president Shimon Peres, President Reuven Rivlin lauded Netanyahu's call for a unity government and said he will do everything he can to prevent another election.

Gantz had not yet responded publicly, but he has repeatedly called for a unity government.

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"To form a unity government you do not come forward with political blocs and spins but rather honesty, statesmanship, responsibility and seriousness", Gantz added, dismissing the political bloc deal Netanyahu reached earlier with the leaders of United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yamina.

"During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government", Netanyahu said.

Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent for The Times.

Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party had the remaining 8 seats.

A unity government as seen in the past in Israel involves parties alternating at the head of government for a fixed period of time.

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Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior Likud member, said he believed Greenblatt was coming to discuss the peace blueprint.

Lieberman refuses to sit with Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox religious allies, and has called for a broad, secular unity government with Likud and Blue and White.

Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, have rejected the Trump plan out of hand, accusing the president of pro-Israeli bias.

With Israeli politics in flux, Netanyahu canceled his annual speech at the U.N. General Assembly next week, a spokesman said on Wednesday about a visit that might have provided an opportunity to meet with Trump.

During the campaign, Netanyahu cast himself as a seasoned statesman who was the only candidate able to steer Israel through a sea of challenges.

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He told reporters he had not spoken to Netanyahu since Tuesday's ballot and said: "Our relationship is with Israel".