Israel election: Netanyahu could be poised for return to power

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will need to appoint a far right-leader as one of his ministers, if he is to be voted in once again. ITV News Correspondent John Irvine reports

A fifth election in three and a half years is of course tedious, but this one feels consequential, not least for Israel’s global reputation.

This may be the last chance for the veteran Benjamin Netanyahu to regain power.

But to make that even a possibility he has enlisted the support of fanatical ultra-nationalist politicians.

And as voting ended at 10pm exit polls suggested he had done enough to secure a slender majority.

Among his new allies is a Jewish supremacist called Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose anti-Arab racist policies are so extreme they have kept him beyond the pale for the last 30 years.

However tonight, with the help of Mr Netanyahu, Mr Ben-Gvir’s party looks like being the third biggest in the Knesset, and he is eyeing up a top cabinet post.

His party, Jewish Power, wants to see the annexation of the entire West Bank, without extending Israeli civil rights to the two million Palestinians who live there.

Mr Ben-Gvir also supports the expulsion from Israel or any Arabs deemed "disloyal".

In the countdown to this election the Americans and the Emiratis are among those who warned the Israelis that the inclusion of such extremists in any new government will strain relations.

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Israeli-Arabs could deny Mr Netanyahu a majority, but that depends on how many vote.

Arab disillusionment tends to suppress turn-out.

All Israeli governments are coalitions and it can take weeks of negotiations to establish a majority administration.

Because he leads Likud, the largest party in the Israeli Parliament, Mr Netanyahu will probably be the first to try to cobble together a working coalition.

Despite the damage it might do to Israel’s reputation abroad, he’ll be tempted to include the extremists because they have said they are willing to change the law, so that the corruption charges, for which he is currently on trial, are dropped.