Despite legal trouble, Netanyahu set to remain Israel's prime minister

Both Likud and Blue and White receive 35 seats, but right-wing bloc has clear majority with 98% of votes counted. See inside for full current seat count...

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Likud rally following the April 9th elections for Knesset (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Likud rally following the April 9th elections for Knesset
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won Tuesday's election. Although his Likud Party and Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party each won 35 seats, Netanyahu is the one who will be able to form a governing coalition able to withstand a bribery indictment by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, according to the results after 98% of the votes have been counted.
On February 28, Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu pending a hearing. Details of the indictment that were not permitted to be released during the election could be leaked as early as Wednesday. The hearing is expected to take place in July and the decision on the final indictment some six months later.
Netanyahu announces "colossal victory" after election exit polls, April 10, 2019 (Reuters)
The parties that made it clear ahead of the election that they would not require Netanyahu to quit following a final indictment were Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the Union of Right-wing Parties and Yisrael Beytenu, together earning a 61-seat majority.
Likud won 35 seats, Shas and UTJ eight each and URP and Yisrael Beytenu five each. Kulanu, whose leader Moshe Kahlon said he would join a Netanyahu-led government but leave following a final indictment, won four seats.
Blue and White won 35 seats, Labor and Hadash-Ta'al six each, and Meretz and the United Arab List-Balad four each. The New Right, Zehut and Gesher did not cross the 3.25% electoral threshold. However as previous dramatic elections have shown, things could change as the final votes from IDF soldiers, prisoners, hospitalized and diplomats are counted.
After an exit poll that earlier showed a Blue and White victory by four seats change to a narrow win for Likud, Netanyahu declared victory at a Likud rally at around 2:00 a.m.
“The right-wing bloc led by Likud clearly won,” Netanyahu said. “I thank Israeli citizens for their trust. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partners already tonight.”
Gantz announced earlier that he won the race, because in a Channel 12 exit poll, Blue and White received 37 seats and Likud 33. In a KAN poll, the victory margin was 37 to 36. A Channel 13 poll found the two parties even at 36.
“We won!” Gantz and his number two Yair Lapid said in a joint statement. “The Israeli public has had their say! Thank you to the thousands of activists and over a million voters. These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser. Netanyahu promised 40 seats and lost. The president can see the picture and should call on the winner to form the next government. There is no other option!”
President Reuven Rivlin will meet with the heads of the parties that cross the threshold next week. Shas, UTJ and URP announced late Tuesday that they would recommend Netanyahu to form the government. Kahlon and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said they would wait for the final results.
Labor and Meretz said they would recommend Gantz.
The surprise of the election was that former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party and the New Right of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked  did not cross the 3.25% threshold. But party officials said the final results would enable them to enter the Knesset.
One of the stories of the election was a repeat of the apparently low turnout in the Arab sector. Hadash-Ta’al won six to seven seats in the polls; United Arab List-Balad did not cross the threshold in two of them.
Netanyahu spent most of the day trying to convince people that voter turnout is dangerously low for the Likud. He posted a new video on his Facebook page every hour warning that “the right-wing government is in danger!”
In the afternoon, Netanyahu went to the Poleg Beach in Netanya to tell voters to stop lollygagging and go vote.
“A lot of people went to the beach, but if they stay on the beach and don’t go vote, they’ll wake up with [Blue and White co-leader Yair] Lapid as prime minister of a left-wing government,” he warned. “If they want to continue with a Likud government with me at the head, they need to vote. Go to the beach later!”
Netanyahu also claimed that Blue and White activists were vandalizing Likud voting slips so that they were not usable.
In another video, Netanyahu spoke to one voter after another: “Go house by house, person by person; make phone calls, send WhatsApp, text messages, get every last voter,” he told Michael in Ramle after 8 p.m.
The only representatives of the English speaking community in Israel who made it into the Knesset are Canadian-born Sharren Haskel (Likud); new ultra-Orthodox MK Yitzhak Pindrus (UTJ), whose parents are from Boston and Cleveland; and Chili Tropper (Blue and White), whose parents are from NY. Houston-born, Chicago-raised former Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick did not make it into the Knesset.
There will be five representatives of the LGBT community in the next Knesset: Current MKs Itzik Shmuli (Labor) and Amir Ohana (Likud), and new MKs from Blue and White Eitan Ginzburg, Idan Roll and Lahav Yorai Hertzanu. Ginzburg was the first openly gay mayor of a city in Israel but was defeated in October in his re-election campaign for Ra'anana mayor. Hertzanu is the founder of the Yesh Atid youth branch. Roll is a former model, LGBT activist and husband of past Eurovision contestant Harel Skaat.