(Al Jazeera) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to win re-election after his main rival conceded defeat.
With more than 99 percent of votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party was set to lead a right-wing bloc with 65 of the 120 seats in parliament.
His main challenger, Benny Gantz, accepted the result on Wednesday, acknowledging that he had failed to unseat the prime minister.
“We respect the decision of the people,” he told reporters.
Although Gantz’s Blue and White Party was set to win a similar number of seats to Likud, there was no obvious path for its leader to find a parliamentary majority.
A number of right-wing parties expressed their support for Netanyahu and are on course to give him a parliamentary majority.
Addressing a jubilant gathering of supporters early on Wednesday, Netanyahu praised the crowd for an “almost inconceivable achievement.
“I was very moved that the nation of Israel once again entrusted me for the fifth time, and with even greater trust,” he added.
Final results are expected to be announced on Thursday.
Despite facing the possibility of being indicted on charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust in three cases, Netanyahu is now set to embark on a record fifth term in office and will also become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
His previous terms have been marked by a rightward shift in Israeli policy towards the occupied Palestinian territories, as peace talks with the Palestinians have collapsed and the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank had accelerated. In the run-up to the election, he said he would annex Israeli settlements if he won a fifth term.
“I think the whole rules of the game are changing, because now Israel is clearly superimposing all of Greater Israel on all of historical Palestine,” said Hanan Ashrawi, PLO executive committee member.
“They have totally cancelled any agreements. They have nullified the two-state solution. They have totally negated the requirements of peace. They have totally violated international law. Now we need a whole new strategy to deal with this.”