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Benjamin Netanyahu's party holds lead in Israeli election

Benjamin Netanyahu's party holds lead in Israeli election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara cast their ballots Monday at a polling station in Jerusalem. Photo by Atef Safadi/UPI | License Photo

March 3 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party looks poised to gain control of the government again after the third election in less than a year on Monday indicates the conservative bloc is just two seats shy of a majority.

With 90 percent of the ballots counted, Likud appears to have won 36 seats compared to 32 for the rival Blue and White Party, led by Benny Gantz. If the results hold, it would be Likud's best showing of the three national elections in the past year.

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As of Tuesday, Likud and its conservative religious bloc have won 59 Knesset seats to 54 seats for the center-left bloc that often sides with the Blue and White Party. The Arab-led Joint List Party, a coalition of Arab factions inside Israel, won 15 seats.

"This is the biggest parliamentary achievement since the first Knesset in 1949," said Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh. "We must become the principled alternative to the Israeli political map. This is the beginning of the rise of a true left."

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Officials said final results may not be known until Tuesday evening.

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The results also could usher in a constitutional crisis for Israel with Netanyahu, who will face corruption charges in court later this month. If his party wins the vote, he would become the first prime minister to form a government in Israel while under criminal indictment.

However, Israel's longest-serving prime minister might now have his best shot at forming a coalition government, something that doomed the previous two elections.

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