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Netanyahu and Gantz Still Tied After Israel's Historic Election

Image source: (AP Photo)
Image source: (AP Photo)

TEL AVIV, Israel — Initial vote counting shows no clear winner in Israel's historic election just yet. Israel's Kan public broadcaster reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and Benny Gantz's rival Blue and White party are neck-and-neck. Three surveys also show that Netanyahu did not earn enough seats in the Knesset to form a right-wing majority government coalition without Blue and White or Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu party. 

An exit poll on Channel 12 says Likud and the Blue and White party are tied with 32 seats each. Official results are not expected to be announced until Wednesday afternoon local time. 

“We’re still waiting for the results. But one thing is clear, the State of Israel is at a historic turning point. We are facing immense opportunities and immense challenges… including the existential threat from Iran,” Netanyahu told supporters early Wednesday morning at the Likud election headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu also said Israel will never have a government "that leans on Arab, anti-Zionist parties."

The day after elections, Gantz also spoke about unity.

"We were busy with the campaign for too long. And with your permission, we will be waiting for another day or two and we wish the people of Israel a good and desirable unity government," Gantz said. 

Tuesday’s election is said to be a referendum on Netanyahu, who has served as Israel’s longest-running prime minister. 

This is an unprecedented election because it is the first time Israel has held elections twice in the same year. Netanyahu's Likud party won the election in April but the prime minister’s inability to form a government coalition weeks after the election sent millions of Israelis back to the polls on Tuesday.

After casting his ballot in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the vote would be "very close."

"It's not in the bag. But if you go (vote), we will win," Netanyahu told Israelis in Jerusalem.

Gantz voted in his hometown of Rosh Haayin and asked fellow Israelis to end Netanyahu’s long reign as prime minister.

"We will bring hope, we will bring change, without corruption, without extremism," he said.

There was plenty of drama as Israelis made their ways to the polls.

Police say they made at least 29 arrests and 69 investigations were launched against individuals suspected of voting fraud and other violations. Police reported that voting slips were vandalized, several people illegally filmed inside the voting booths, and one man cut the power at a polling site and stole several voting slips. One suspect even threw a firework outside a polling station outside Jerusalem.

Israeli media also reported that the Blue and White website was shut down due to a cyberattack hours before polls closed.

The party said the “significant cyberattack” was carried out in a wide-scale operation.

“Over 500 attempted breaches were detected from various servers abroad,” the party said.

Despite the drama, both Likud and Blue and White are cautious not to celebrate any perceived victory too early.  Party leaders are waiting for the final vote to be counted. 

Official results will only come out in the next week and forming a government can take another month or more after that.  If no government is formed Israelis will go to a third round of elections.  For now, Israelis are waiting to see if a government is formed and what it will look like. 

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