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Israel Election Live Updates: As Gantz Concedes, Netanyahu Set for Victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in position to win a fourth consecutive term on Wednesday, with nearly all of the votes counted. By Wednesday evening, the rival Blue and White alliance led by Benny Gantz had conceded the race, though ballots were still being counted.

• After the final tally, it will be up to President Reuven Rivlin to choose the party leader he believes has the best chance of assembling a parliamentary majority. But Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud bloc had a strong numerical advantage in being able to form a governing coalition.

• Regardless of the final result, the election illustrated the deep divisions under Mr. Netanyahu, 69, who has led Israel for a decade of relative security and prosperity. More than a million Israelis voted for Blue and White, a record for a new party, placing it in the position of being the main alternative to Israel’s right wing, a spot held for decades by the Labor Party.

The Blue and White alliance, the political centrists that had posed the greatest threat to Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, conceded the election on Wednesday evening, acknowledging that it did not have the votes to take control of the government.

“We didn’t win on this round,” Yair Lapid, one of the alliance leaders, said.

Mr. Gantz, who had once been seen as a viable contender for prime minister, speaking to a crowd in Tel Aviv a short time earlier, said he would respect the decision of the president to choose the party leader he saw fit but vowed to fight on “in any way I can.”

The Blue and White alliance, the political centrists that had posed the greatest threat to Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, conceded the election on Wednesday evening, acknowledging that it did not have the votes to take control of the government.

“We didn’t win on this round,” Yair Lapid, one of the alliance leaders, said.

Mr. Gantz, who had once been seen as a viable contender for prime minister, speaking to a crowd in Tel Aviv a short time earlier, said he would respect the decision of the president to choose the party leader he saw fit but vowed to fight on “in any way I can.”

The Blue and White alliance, the political centrists that had posed the greatest threat to Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, conceded the election on Wednesday evening, acknowledging that it did not have the votes to take control of the government.

“We didn’t win on this round,” Yair Lapid, one of the alliance leaders, said.

Mr. Gantz, who had once been seen as a viable contender for prime minister, speaking to a crowd in Tel Aviv a short time earlier, said he would respect the decision of the president to choose the party leader he saw fit but vowed to fight on “in any way I can.”

The ballots are still being counted — a final tally is not expected until tomorrow — and after that, President Rivlin will choose the party leader he believes has the best chance of assembling a parliamentary majority to head the government.

Four right-wing and religious parties had publicly pledged by Wednesday morning to support Mr. Netanyahu in his bid to form Israel’s next governing coalition. Those commitments, if they hold, leave him just one seat short of a parliamentary majority and a fourth consecutive term in office.

The four parties — Kulanu, the Union of Right Wing Parties, and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism — are projected to win a combined 25 seats. Together with the 35 seats that Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party is projected to win, such a coalition would have 60 seats in the 120-seat Parliament.

Also among what Mr. Netanyahu terms his “natural partners” is the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, which is projected to take five seats.

The party has joined coalition governments led by Mr. Netanyahu in the past, but Mr. Lieberman was holding out on Wednesday, saying he was waiting for the final tally of votes, including the ballots of soldiers, prisoners and hospital patients that are to be counted later this week.

Mr. Lieberman served as foreign affairs minister and then defense minister under Mr. Netanyahu, but resigned from the government in November, complaining of a soft policy toward Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

A spokesman for Yisrael Beiteinu, Aryeh Vishenski, reiterated the party’s campaign message that it would only join a coalition that would allow a proper “fight against terrorism in the south,” enact a law to draft ultra-Orthodox males into the military and introduce a pension overhaul — particularly to help elderly immigrants, one of its core constituencies. — ISABEL KERSHNER

President Reuven Rivlin will decide whether to invite Mr. Netanyahu to form a governing coalition, though the two men have made little secret over the years of their mutual loathing. The president’s office said Wednesday that he would begin consulting party heads next week to gauge their choices for prime minister.

In what the office described as a “historic and pioneering decision,” it plans to broadcast those meetings live “in the name of transparency.” That move may offer Mr. Rivlin protection from possible barbs from Mr. Netanyahu if the process does not go as the prime minister would like.

The origins of the animosity between the president and prime minister are unclear, but it burst into the open when Mr. Rivlin, a veteran of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party and a former speaker of Parliament, was running for the presidency in 2014.

So determined was Mr. Netanyahu to thwart Mr. Rivlin’s candidacy that he tried to recruit Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, for the job — even though Mr. Wiesel, who has since died, was not an Israeli citizen at the time. When that failed, Mr. Netanyahu floated the idea of abolishing the largely ceremonial office.

Mr. Rivlin, 79, has spoken out forcefully against the government’s attempts to curb the independence of the courts and the media, and what he called a lack of “statesmanship” under Mr. Netanyahu. —

Palestinian leaders said the election results endorsed an indefinite Israeli occupation of the West Bank, human rights abuses there, and growing encroachment on Palestinian lands.

In an appeal to voters on the far right, Mr. Netanyahu, who has backed Jewish settlements in the West Bank that much of the world considers illegal, vowed on Saturday to go a step further, annexing them and possibly other territory into Israel.

“Israelis have voted no to peace and yes to apartheid,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Council, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Regrettably, Israelis overwhelmingly voted for candidates that are unequivocally committed to entrenching the status quo of oppression, occupation, annexation and dispossession in Palestine and escalating the assault on Palestinian national and human rights.”

Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, wrote on Twitterthat Israelis “have said no to peace and yes to the occupation.”

Palestinians and independent analysts say Israeli encroachment into the occupied territory has dimmed hopes for creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. And in Israeli politics, there is little remaining support for a “two-state solution.” — RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA

The Israeli justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, was met by demonstrators as she left a pre-election event for the New Right Party in Tel Aviv.CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times

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The Israeli justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, was met by demonstrators as she left a pre-election event for the New Right Party in Tel Aviv.CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times

The election claimed two prominent conservative casualties: Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett of the New Right party, which apparently failed to clear the threshold for any seats in Parliament.

Mr. Bennett said on Wednesday that he hoped that New Right would gain enough votes to keep him in Parliament once the ballots of tens of thousands of soldiers — along with those of hospital patients, prison inmates and merchant seamen — are counted on Friday.

“I was always a soldier of the state,” he wrote on Twitter, whether in the military, in business or in government, where he was a cabinet minister during the 2014 Gaza conflict. “Now the soldiers will decide where I will continue to fight for them.”

In November, Mr. Bennett sought to be named defense minister, but the prime minister turned him down.

The New Right broke away from a more established right-wing party, aiming to free itself of the influence of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and more extremist elements in the pro-settler community. But it defined itself by what it was not, rather than what it was, and its election ads were widely seen as sophomoric.

“They were rising stars with a solid base of support, which they abandoned,” said Tal Shalev, a political reporter for Walla, a news site.

Mr. Bennett and Ms. Shaked had expected to compete with Mr. Gantz for support from the center-right. Instead, those voters appeared to turn to other parties on the right, believing Mr. Netanyahu’s dire warnings that a Gantz victory would mean a return to left-wing government.

Ms. Shaked, the justice minister, is highly popular among Likud activists, many of whom see her as a future prime minister, but Mr. Bennett is less so, meaning their paths are likely to diverge if they do not return to Parliament.