Israel vote deadlock confirmed by near-complete official results

With Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, right, winning 33 seats out of 120 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, left, winning 31; Israeli President Reuven Rivlin plans to begin consultations soon to decide who to choose to try to form a government. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Israel vote deadlock confirmed by near-complete official results

  • Final election results will be published on Wednesday

JERUSALEM: Near-complete official results Friday confirmed a deadlock in Israel’s general election this week, putting Benny Gantz’s party as the largest but without an obvious path to form a majority coalition.
The results from Israel’s election committee showed Gantz’s centrist Blue and White with 33 seats out of 120 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud with 31.
Final results will be published on Wednesday, it said, and there could be changes before then.
The committee said the results did not include 14 polling stations where verifications were still ongoing.
Israeli media said that meant 99.8 percent of the votes had been counted.
The third-largest total was the mainly Arab Joint List alliance, which won 13 seats, followed by the Jewish ultra-Orthodox party Shas with nine.
Another ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, won eight seats, as did ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu.
The results have put Netanyahu’s long tenure in office at risk.
On Thursday, he acknowledged the results did not allow him to form a right-wing coalition as he hoped and instead called on Gantz to form a unity government with him.
Gantz responded by saying he would have to be prime minister in a unity government since Blue and White was the largest party.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin plans to begin consultations with all parties voted into parliament on Sunday to decide who to choose to try to form a government.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”