Ties to Trump and U.S. loom large in tight Israeli election battle

Trump ties loom large in tight Israeli vote

With nearly all of the votes counted in Israel's parliamentary elections, Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger appear tied on Wednesday. 

Netanyahu campaigned on his close relationship with President Trump and the United States, touting policy wins like the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem

Netanyahu has been a close ally to Mr. Trump, and it wasn't clear how the election results might complicate, or further delay, the unveiling of the White House's much-touted plan for Middle East peace.    

The Israeli incumbent has put his close relationship with Mr. Trump — and the vital U.S.-Israel security alliance — front and center in his re-election campaign, appealing to Israeli citizens' nerves amid fast-escalating tension with Iran and persistent threats from that adversary's proxy groups in the region.

Exit polls showed Netanyahu's Likud party falling short of winning a parliamentary majority on its own. Results from Israel's three major TV stations showed challenger Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party slightly ahead of Likud. But as CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports, exit polls are often imprecise, and the final tally, expected later Wednesday, could shift in Netanyahu's favor.

Voting is just the first stage; now Doane says the back-room deal making will begin. Neither party will control a parliamentary majority without backing from Avigdor Lieberman, who could bring his midsize Yisrael Beitenu party into a coalition. 

Results in Israel too close to call after polls close

This is far from the first time Netanyahu has faced a political setback. In May, Israel held its second snap election of 2019 after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition and instead dissolved parliament. In that case, Netanyahu wasn't able to form a parliamentary majority because Lieberman refused to join a coalition with Likud.  

Netanyahu is also battling right now for more than his political survival; he's facing possible indictment on corruption charges, and wants a parliament that will approve legislation granting him immunity from prosecution.