05:36 GMT09 April 2020
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    Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is leading with 37 seats in the 120-seat Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, as the preliminary results of the country's third round of general polls start coming in. His main rival, former chief-of-staff Benny Gantz and his Blue and White list, have lost at least three seats but remain Israel's second largest party.

    Although the final results of Israel’s third general election in a year will only be announced in the next couple of days, it seems that Benjamin Netanyahu's victory is close as never before, and the prime ministers took to social networks to thank his supporters for the win.

    "Thank you," he tweeted.

    From People with Love:

    Supportive comments were soon to follow, with one social media user tweeting: 

    "This election was a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the venom directed at him and his family, despite all the investigations and indictments filed against him, despite the hatred from home and abroad. It's important to remember: The people are not stupid! The people are the sovereign and that is the beauty and the essence of democracy."

    A fellow Twitterian also referred to AG's decision to indict Netanyahu in a series of graft probes that include buying positive press and receiving illegal gifts from a rich donor:

    "We won! We won the 'only not Bibi' sect. We won the hating and the racist left wing. We won [Attorney General] Mandelblitt and the judiciary junta. We won the biased mass media, the leaked documents, the lies and the cases they came up with. We won the boycott, the wickedness and their attempts to shut us up," she wrote.

    Another Twitter user wrote: “The final result is that the corrupt and the anti-Semitic haters have lost. The righteous and Israel lovers have won. Bravo Bibi!”

    Some were even trying to analyse the reason for Netanyahu's success and the failure of Blue and White.

    "It is not enough to shout: 'just not Bibi'. If you don't have alternative ideas on such issues as security, Gaza, living expenses. If you are trying to be more Bibi than Netanyahu himself, the public will inevitably prefer the original."

    But there were other reasons for Gantz's fall. Even though during the first two bids Gantz avoided personal attacks, preferring to keep his campaign purely professional, this time around he snapped.

    By comparing the prime minister to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, relations with whom leave much to be desired due to his support for Palestinians and the Gaza-based Hamas, which is considered a terror organisation in Israel, Gantz ended up harming his own campaign simply because his words were regarded as no more than an incitement.

    Gantz's confusion hasn't contributed to his success either, with videos of him making mistakes becoming viral and costing him votes.

    Netanyahu, on the other hand, has learned from his past errors. 

    Firstly, he got rid of the "divide and conquer" policy that was typical of his campaigns during the first two rounds.

    Instead, he opted to concentrate on his achievements, reiterating the role he played in the US decision to withdraw from the Iran deal, to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, to move the American embassy to the disputed city and more recently to release its "deal of the century" peace plan that aimed at introducing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offered Israel the chance to legitimise Jewish settlements in the West Bank and extend its sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, which is currently mostly considered part of the West Bank's 'Area C'.

    Secondly, Netanyahu invested in campaigns in Russian and Arabic and, finally, decided to reach out to voters, preferring to tour the country and attend dozens of events instead of exerting efforts into boosting his social media pages that brought little success in the previous rounds.

    Yet, he also knew to capitalise on people's fears. In 2015, when he released a video warning Israelis about the high turnout among Arab voters, he was slammed for “racism” and for using all means available at his disposal to tilt the public in his favour.

    Now, however, his campaign - "it's Bibi or Tibi" reiterated the cooperation of Gantz with the Joint Arab List, an alliance of parties that received some 15 seats and that included such controversial figures as Heba Yazbek, who not so recently was considered to be banned by the Knesset for her comments in support of terrorists.

    Painting a Picture of Doom and Gloom:

    But amid the overwhelming majority of supportive comments, there were also those who were not satisfied with the results.

    "The Likud lost the elections. The victory they are trying to project is one big fake and is destined to fail. The Likud woke the bear up and now the left-wing government will join forces with Lieberman and with the support of the Arab parties, to remove Bibi even if temporarily...very sad."

    Another user tweeted: "Obviously [we have to] resist.  Just can't even imagine the light at the edge of the tunnel.  The next generation, two-year-old toddlers, who arrived at the ballot stations with their mothers, are already shouting 'Bibi, Bibi'.  The failure is so deep, so wide, and so systemic that I can't even imagine any change right now."

    "Netanyahu's only goal was to reach 61 seats to avoid facing trial," another social media user penned, referring to the trial of the premier that's set to kick off on March 17th. 

    "This seems to be remote now. No other party will give him the seats he needs. This is a huge failure of Netanyahu. We are in for a fourth round."

    According to recent estimates, the Netanyahu-led bloc has 59 seats, only two seats away from forming a government.

    For Netanyahu to do so, he will now need defectors from the opposition, and the prime minister has already hinted that talks with potential candidates have already begun. 

    Israel, victory, general election, Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's third general election
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