Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz conceded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday after a close election between the two men, giving the Likud leader a fifth term in office.
The two parties secured 35 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, but Netanyahu was able to form a larger coalition of right-wing parties to secure a clear majority with 65 seats.
Both Gantz and Netanyahu declared early victories Tuesday night, but the Blue and White leader conceded defeat.
“We respect the decision of the people,” Gantz said during a televised speech.
Despite the loss, he said he was satisfied with the votes his party achieved weeks after its formation.
“We have established a genuine leadership alternative,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu gathered all of the extremists and cannibalized his partners. The result is quite unprecedented and indicates the level of expectation [for an alternative] … Our party consists of right, left, religious and secular. In 70 days we managed to achieve the same amount of Knesset seats as a party which exists since the 1970s.”
Yair Lapid, Gantz’s No. 2, said the Blue and White Party Knesset members plan to “make life miserable” for the ruling Likud coalition.
Netanyahu, speaking Tuesday night, declared it a “tremendous victory” for his party.
“Tonight, I already began talks with the leaders of the right-wing parties, our natural partners.”
U.S. President Donald Trump, a supporter of Netanyahu, called the prime minister to congratulate him on his election victory.
“PM Netanyahu thanked @POTUS Trump for his great support of Israel, including the recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as for the strong stand against the Iranian regime, including the President’s recent decision against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” Netanyahu said on Twitter.