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Benjamin Netanyahu Wins Historic Fifth Term As Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu has already begun to broker deals with religious and far-right parties

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Israel election: Netanyahu wins fifth term as rival concedes” was written by Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem, for The Guardian on Wednesday 10th April 2019 17.39 UTC

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to serve a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister after his main rival conceded that he had lost the election.

With 97% of votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White party, led by former army general Benny Gantz, had tied with 35 seats each in the 120-seat house, the Knesset. However, the rightwing bloc that Netanyahu is part of had 65 in total, a comfortable majority.

“We respect the decision of the people,” Gantz said in a televised statement on Wednesday evening, adding that Blue and White had “founded a true alternative rule to Netanyahu”.

His number two, Yair Lapid, said while the party “didn’t win in this round, we will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition”.

Despite three impending corruption indictments, the prime minister emerged as the winner from a tight election race to continue his 10-year stretch in high office.

Netanyahu has already begun to broker deals with religious and far-right parties to form Israel’s next government. The 69-year-old former commando, who first became prime minister in 1996, is on track to become Israel’s longest-ever serving leader this summer.

“This is a night of tremendous victory. Tremendous,” he said even before early poll counts had been released. “Tonight, I already began talks with the leaders of the rightwing parties, our natural partners.”

Several world leaders, especially nationalists, rushed to congratulate Netanyahu.

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Netanyahu tweeted on Wednesday that Trump had called him to congratulate him on his re-election for a fifth term. “The two leaders agreed to continue working in the coming years in the closest way for Israel and the United States,” Netanyahu said in the statement on his Twitter account. Trump also tweeted a photo of the Trump flag at Bibi’s election party:

“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” said Trump, who has tasked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with drafting a Middle East peace plan. Palestinians have preemptively rejected it, citing overt Trump bias, while Netanyahu has shown open disdain for peace efforts.

India’s Narendra Modi tweeted to his “dear friend”, and said he hoped to “take our bilateral partnership to new heights”.

On the campaign trail, Gantz had sought to capitalise on the corruption allegations, presenting himself as a clean, centrist alternative to Netanyahu. But by daybreak on Wednesday, the results showed the plan had backfired somewhat as Israelis saw the election as a referendum on “King Bibi”.

Although they tied, the Likud party performed better than ever, possibly buoyed by its election campaign warnings that the right wing was in danger of falling to “leftists” and Arab parties.

By presenting the election as a binary choice between the two main candidates, leftwing parties were decimated, leaving Gantz with few potential coalition partners.

And while Netanyahu will have to offer concessions – such as ministerial posts – to rightwing parties to back him, the religious factions he already has agreements with gained seats. Meanwhile, some of his more demanding ultranationalist allies lost their bargaining power. Unofficial results showed former education minister Naftali Bennett, a political partner of necessity rather than choice, may not make it back into the Knesset.

Solidifying Israel’s drift towards the right, a Netanyahu fifth term is expected to entrench the occupation over more than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the severe blockade on 2 million more in Gaza.

A far-right alliance is expected to be in government, although its candidate from Jewish Power – whose members have called for the expulsion of Arabs and have been internationally condemned – did not make it into the Knesset.

Unlike Palestinians under military rule in the occupied West Bank, almost a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab and have the right to vote. But sections of the community called for an election boycott, especially after a campaign filled with racist scaremongering. Arab parties appeared to have lost three seats in the Knesset.

Once a final tally is released, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will hold consultations with political parties next week. Under Israeli election law, he will ask them to recommend a prime minister before tasking the winning candidate with forming a majority coalition government. Negotiations among parties could take days or weeks.

Hanging over Netanyahu’s victory are the indictment recommendations, allegations he dismisses as a “witch-hunt”.

Now the election is over, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, is freed of the political pressure not to influence the vote with potentially damning, but unproved, case details. Therefore, the process of the indictments is expected to gather pace and a pre-trial hearing in which Netanyahu can defend himself will start.

Though not legally required to resign if formally charged, Netanyahu could lose allies if he is proven guilty. But Israeli media also reported his coalition partners might push through a law to give him immunity.

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Cardinal George Pell’s Appeal Denied; Convictions On Sex Abuse Will Stand

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MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian court has confirmed convictions against the most superior Catholic to be found condemned of child sex abuse.


The Victoria state Court of Appeal by a 2-1 majority ruling published Wednesday denied Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unanimous verdicts a jury issued in December finding Pope Francis’ former finance minister condemned of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

At the time, Pell had just become archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city and had established an international-first reimbursement method for victims of clergical sexual abuse.

His lawyers are predicted to appeal the decision in the High Court, Australia’s final arbitrator.

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Attorney Cites Trump’s Rhetoric In National Anthem Attack On Montana Teenager

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Curt James Brockway, 39, is charged with felony assault on a minor.(Montana Department of Corrections)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The attorney for a Montana man accused of throwing a 13-year-old boy to the ground at a rodeo because the teenager didn’t remove his hat during the national anthem says his client believes he was acting on an order from President Trump.


Attorney Lance Jasper told the Missoulian newspaper that the president’s “rhetoric” contributed to 39-year-old Curt Brockway’s disposition when he grabbed the boy by the throat and slammed him to the ground, fracturing his skull at the Mineral County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

Jasper said Brockway is an Army veteran who believes he was acting on an order by his commander in chief. He adds that Brockway’s decision-making has been affected by a brain injury he suffered in a vehicle crash.

Brockway is charged with felony assault on a minor.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: ‘I am very much alive’

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(CNN) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday sought to quell concerns that her recent health-related issues could cause her to leave the court, saying in a new interview, “I am very much alive.”

The comments to NPR from Ginsburg, 86 — who earlier this year took a break from the court after undergoing cancer surgery — come amid concerns from progressives that her death or retirement would give President Donald Trump an opportunity to replace a reliably liberal seat on the court with a conservative justice. Ginsburg has sought in recent days to signal that her health is stable and she has no plans to step down with the court facing major issues in its next session on immigration, gun control, gay rights and possibly abortion.

During Ginsburg’s recent surgery, doctors removed from her left lung two cancerous nodules, which were found during scans taken after the justice sustained three fractured ribs in a fall last November. In the interview with NPR, published Wednesday, Ginsburg made reference to the late Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, who suggested in 2009 that she would soon die from the pancreatic cancer she had been diagnosed with.

“There was a senator — I think it was after the pancreatic cancer — who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator — whose name I’ve forgotten — is now himself dead. And I am very much alive,” Ginsburg said.

Bunning, who later apologized for the remarks, died in 2017.

In the NPR interview, Ginsburg also weighed in on an idea circulating among some Democrats to increase the number of justices on the court should a Democrat be elected president, saying she disagreed.

“Well, if anything, it would make the court appear partisan. It would be that one side saying, ‘when we’re in power, it was only to enlarge the number of judges so we will have more people who will vote the way we want them to,'” she said. “So I am not at all in favor of that solution to what I see as a temporary situation.”

Ginsburg’s health has become the subject of much attention in recent years. In November 2014, she underwent a heart procedure to have a stent placed in her right coronary artery, and in 2009, she was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer.

In 1999, just six years after being sworn in as an associate justice, she successfully underwent surgery to treat colon cancer.

Last July, Ginsburg said she hopes to stay on the bench past 2020. On Tuesday, she revealed that she traveled with the late Justice John Paul Stevens “in the last week of his life” to Lisbon, Portugal, for a conference where the two justices attended meetings, visited museums, vineyards and castles.

“His conversation was engaging, his memory amazing,” she said on Tuesday. As they were leaving the US ambassador’s residence during their last evening in Lisbon, Ginsburg told Stevens, “My dream is to remain on the court as long as you did.”

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