By the time I went to bed, both men had given victory speeches.
Confetti falls as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara stand on stage after Netanyahu spoke following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's parliamentary election at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel April 10, 2019.
Gantz's statement followed an exit poll on Channel 12 TV news, Israel's TV station with the highest ratings, which showed he has won 37 seats while Netanyahu lags behind with 33 seats.
Matthews said Trump's apparent intervention in Israeli elections was unprecedented, but did not mention how President Obama's State Department gave grant money to OneVoice, an Israeli political group and opponent of Netanyahu. "Bibi (Netanyahu) lost big time", Gantz said.
Earlier Tuesday before there was a clear victor, Gantz and his No. 2, Yair Lapid, had proclaimed victory, urging Netanyahu to admit defeat.
Netanyahu spoke in the early hours of Wednesday at the Likud's post-election party in Tel Aviv and called it a "magnificent victory".
- The attorney general however has announced his intention to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending a hearing, with proceedings set to begin in the coming months. "And we are the winners", Gantz told a victory rally shortly after midnight.
The election commission will release its final results by Friday.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has said he hoped that Israel's elections could help bring peace but senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Wednesday that the results showed otherwise. Coalition talks are already underway, but it could take weeks for Netanyahu's discussions with his various allies to produce a working government, The Guardian noted.
Most of the votes have been counted and the two main parties - Likud and Blue and White - are virtually tied for seats in the parliament.
With more than four million votes counted as of 9 a.m., Likud had snagged 26.27% of the vote, or 35 seats in the 120-seat legislature - the party's best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu. Each leader will tell the president which party head they think should be invited to form a government. The telegenic Gantz, who has been vague on key policy fronts, has presented himself as a clean, scandal-free alternative to Netanyahu.
US officials say they have briefed regional leaders, though the Palestinian Authority says it has been boycotting diplomatic contacts with Washington to protest President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Gantz, a former military chief, promised Israelis a "new dawn, a new history".
Even if Netanyahu's party Likud ends up 4-5 seats behind, Likud has more allies in the religious parties giving him a better chance of forming a government.
He faced a tough challenge from Gantz, who offered the security credentials prized by Israelis and a clean-hands image, but lacked the political experience the prime minister accrued in a combined 13 years in office.
"Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo". Though early campaign polls suggested that a majority of voters wanted to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu, they failed to do so.
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