Benjamin Netanyahu accuses rivals of trying to 'steal' election

Israel's PM hits out as opponents reportedly mull legal moves to block him


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused his opponents of trying to “steal the election” as a bitter war of words broke out following yet another inconclusive vote.

The Likud leader lashed out at what Israeli media described as an “emergency meeting” on Saturday night amid reports that Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz is trying to form a minority government.

Likud won the most votes in Monday’s election but even with support of right-wing and Charedi parties, Mr Netanyahu’s prospective coalition has only 58 seats – three short of an overall majority.

Blue and White, together with the left-wing Zionist group, has only 40.

But Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Mr Gantz may try to form a minority government, with tacit support from the Arab Joint List which has 15 seats and Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu with seven.

He was quoted as saying that voters have again decided “the Netanyahu era is over”.

Mr Gantz said he had made a decision “to form a strong and stable government” and “heal Israel of hatred and division”.

According to Ynet, security around the Blue and White leader has been tightened following incitement against him on social media.

It was Mr Lieberman’s decision to leave the Likud-led government a year ago that forced elections in April and September last year.

He has said he is willing to back legislation that would stop a politician indicted on criminal charges becoming Prime Minister.

Mr Netanyahu is due to appear on court later this month to face accusations of corruption.

According to Israel’s Channel 12, Mr Lieberman, whose party again may hold the balance of power, said there was “no chance” he would join a Netanyahu-led government.

His conditions for joining any government, which include implementing a law on drafting yeshivah students into the army and permitting civil marriage, would be anathema to the Strictly Orthodox parties that Mr Netanyahu has previously relied on to form a coalition.

But Mr Netanyahu, who earlier this week celebrated his “amazing” victory, rounded on his opponents at a rally last night, accusing them of trying to “steal the elections through deceit and anti-democratic legislation”.

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