TIME Israel

Israel Denies Spying on Iran Nuclear Talks With U.S.

Israeli PM Netanyahu weekly cabinet meeting
Abir Sultan—Reuters Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem Feb. 15, 2015.

"The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies."

Israel did not snoop on closed-door talks over Iran’s nuclear program involving the U.S., a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday, denying an earlier report.

On Monday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials learned of the spying — which it said was part of Netanyahu’s effort to derail a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program — when American intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials. Some of Israel’s information came from French sources, the newspaper reported.

U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment, but Netanyahu’s office slammed the report on Tuesday.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Argentina

Secret Nazi Hideout Believed Found in Argentina

Researchers found German coins and a porcelain plate dating back to World War II

Archeologists have discovered ruins in a remote jungle region of Argentina that are believed to be Nazi hideouts intended to act as safe havens if Germany lost World War II.

Inside three run-down buildings in the Teyú Cuaré park, near the border with Paraguay, researchers found five German coins minted during the Nazi regime and a porcelain plate marked “Made in Germany,” the Clarín newspaper reports.

“Apparently, halfway through World War II, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat — inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” team leader Daniel Schávelzon told Clarín.

In fact, the hideouts would prove unnecessary because after the war then Argentine President Juan Perón allowed thousands of Nazis, and other European fascists, to resettle in the South American nation. Most notorious among them was arguably Adolf Eichmann, a leading architect of the Holocaust, who in 1960 was found in Argentina by an Israeli intelligence group. He was abducted and eventually executed in Israel for his crimes.

[Clarín]

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TIME

Netanyahu Now Says He Wants a 2-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.
Nir Elias—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.

The Israeli Prime Minister backtracked on election-timed statements he made earlier this week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinian despite coming out against a Palestinian state on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu had reversed course on his support for a two-state solution when he said in an interview on Monday that he would not allow a Palestinian state if he remained in office. That stance appeared aimed at bolstering support from Israel’s right ahead of what was expected to be a close election on Tuesday, though his statement drew widespread condemnation abroad, including from the White House.

But fresh off of a surprise strong showing in Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday with MSNBC that he doesn’t want “a one-state solution.”

“I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that circumstances have to change,” said Netanyahu, who is poised to get a fourth term in office.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, handily defeating his strongest opposition, the Zionist Union, which won 24 seats. According to the Israeli system, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to select Netanyahu to try to form a new coalition government.

Watch the full interview below:

TIME Israel

Netanyahu: U.S. Has ‘No Greater Ally Than Israel’

President Barack Obama (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 20, 2013.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP President Barack Obama (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 20, 2013.

Israel's Prime Minister calls for strong cooperation between two nations

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that Israel’s relationship with the U.S. was strong despite recent controversies, telling NBC News on Thursday that his nation has “no greater ally.”

Netanyahu’s already-strained relationship with the U.S. frayed further in recent weeks when the prime minister spoke in Congress against a nuclear deal in Iran and — on the eve of the election — pledged to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

In his first American broadcast-network interview since winning close-fought parliamentary elections, Netanyahu told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that while he has yet to speak with President Barack Obama…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Infectious Disease

A New Blood Test Could Stop Doctors From Overprescribing Antibiotics

In this image provided by Duke University, lab research analyst Marshall Nichols does research relating to a new blood test on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, in Durham, N.C.
Shawn Rocco—AP In this image provided by Duke University, lab-research analyst Marshall Nichols does research relating to a new blood test on Sept. 17, 2013, in Durham, N.C.

The procedure distinguishes between viral and bacterial infections

Scientists claim to have established a new blood test that can help doctors quickly distinguish between bacterial and viral infections, giving physicians the ability to prescribe antibiotics more accurately. That’s according to a study published by PLOS One on Wednesday.

Israeli-based company MeMed, along with researchers from other institutes, says that they examined over 1,000 patients and found that their ImmunoXpert blood test could distinguish between immune responses to bacterial or viral infections. The procedure is reportedly fast, taking only hours to complete when alternatives often require days.

“Antibiotic misuse is a pressing public health concern, with devastating healthcare and economic consequences,” stated MeMed CEO Eran Eden in a release to media. “Unlike most traditional diagnostics, this approach builds on an exquisitely informative system crafted by nature — the human immune system.”

While still in the laboratory stage, the test could be important because doctors have long struggled to identify the root causes of infections, meaning that antibiotics, which only attack bacteria, are often prescribed unnecessarily.

TIME Israel

Netanyahu Divides as He Conquers in Israeli Election

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters.
Salih Zeki Fazlioglu—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters after the first results of the Israeli general election on March 18, 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Hard-right shift leaves him with a remarkably raw relationship with Israeli Arabs

Much of Israel and the rest of the Middle East went to bed late Tuesday with initial exit polls showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in a virtual tie with its main rival, the center-left Zionist Union, but awoke Wednesday to a vastly different outcome.

Not only was Netanyahu re-elected in a landslide that had been undetected by most pollsters ahead of Tuesday’s ballot, grabbing 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but for the first time in Israeli history the third-largest party is Arab, comprising a bloc of 14 seats.

With this ascendency of Israeli Arabs — some of whom prefer to be called Palestinian Israelis — increasingly apparent in the weeks leading up the elections, Netanyahu played on fears of their empowerment on election day. He sent out controversial videos, text messages and tweets saying that “the Arabs are streaming to the polls in droves,” and accused the left wing of “busing them in.” In the 48 hours before the vote, an intense period in which Likud seemed to be trailing three or four seats behind the Zionist Union, an alliance under the leadership of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu vowed there would be no Palestinian state if he was elected.

These moves by Netanyahu may well have helped him win an election that he looked slated to lose just a few days earlier.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would work to form a coalition within two to three weeks, adding that he was “thrilled by the heavy responsibility of his victory.” In a trip to the Western Wall, where he appeared to give thanks for his surprise success at the polls, he also promised that he would work for the benefit of all Israel’s citizens — a sore spot after the tactics of a day earlier. “I appreciate the decision by Israel’s citizens to elect me and my friends, against all odds and in the face of powerful forces,” he said, “and I will do everything I can to care for the security and welfare of all Israelis.”
Those friends with whom he’s likely to form a coalition are the Jewish Home party, the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and centrist parties such as Kulanu and Yesh Atid.

But his checkered campaign leaves him with a remarkably raw relationship with the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab, following his public painting of their voting power as an existential threat to Israel, and it leaves him with no bridges left to burn with the Palestinian Authority, much less moderate Arab countries that have been pushing for a two-state solution since the launch of the Arab Peace Initiative a decade ago. All this, of course, comes amid an historic low point in relations between Washington and Jerusalem. Tuesday’s elections came about two weeks after Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress to warn of a “bad deal” on a nuclear Iran, much to the chagrin of the Obama Administration.

MORE: What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

Senior officials in the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said the election outcome proved that Palestinians had no partner in Israel — a reversal of the accusation that Netanyahu and other right-wing Israeli politicians have often lodged at the Palestinian Authority.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed the international community for not doing more to protest Palestinian rights, and indicated that its tolerance of Netanyahu’s policies had paved the way to his successful bid to consolidate his power.

“Such a result would not have been possible had the international community held Israel to account for its systematic violations of international law,” Erekat said in a media statement. “Now, more than ever, the international community must act. It must rally behind Palestinian efforts to internationalize our struggle for dignity and freedom through the International Criminal Court and through all other peaceful means.” Palestinians have been trying to advance a case in the ICC against Israel over its conduct during last summer’s war, when more than 2,100 Palestinians and about 80 Israelis died.

Netanyahu thumbing his nose at the U.S.-brokered peace process and turning his back on the landmark speech he made at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, during which he said he was in principle open to a Palestinian state, was clearly an attempt to lure back right-wing voters. Many of them had drifted over to parties like Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett, who was a key coalition partner in the last government and will almost certainly be in the next one as well. Many others, says pollster Avi Dejani, president of the Geocartography Knowledge Group, for weeks indicated that they were undecided.

“So we asked, if you do vote, for whom will it be — and for whom did you vote in the past? Likud, they said,” Dejani explained, in a conference call arranged by The Israel Project. “Many, many voters who are politically allied with the Likud got scared that the left may actually win, and they came back home.”

The scare tactics included a video sent out early on election day, telling supporters to rush out and vote because Arabs were supposedly voting in high numbers. Arab voter turnout was higher than in previous years — around 68%, members of the United List say. This upsurge in a sector where so many express feeling disenfranchised and marginalized came in large part from the new wings that Israeli Arab politicians got from their constituents by having put aside their internal differences and uniting.

In an ironic twist, this effort to put all four Arab parties on one list, called the Joint List, was born in part of the efforts of right-wing parties to marginalize Arab lawmakers and force some of them out of the Knesset. These right-wing parliamentarians authored legislation that made it necessary for the first time for any party running for office to earn at least 3.25% of the vote to earn a mandate. This means smaller parties under that new threshold would no longer make it into the Knesset, a change that was most likely to affect smaller Arab parties.

“There were really no buses, by the way,” says Yousef Jabareen a new member of Knesset. “When that video came out, the voter turnout then was still very low. So it was factually misleading, and unfortunately, Netanyahu gained some support because of that.”

The video, he said, raised “a feeling of anger” and some degree of shock that a sitting Prime Minister could portray Israeli citizens going to the ballot box on election day as a threat. “He is the top official in Israel, and you would expect him to encourage people to vote and to be part of the democratic process,” says Jabareen. “However, in Israel apparently, the standards are different. Can you imagine if in Europe the French premiers said he’s worried about too many Jews voting?”

That sentiment was reverberating through the American Jewish community as well. Influential Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev, also the left-wing paper’s U.S. editor, tweeted: “To Netanyahu’s many American friends: what if a US President had said ‘too many Jews are voting?'” Shalev’s comment was retweeted more than 500 times. Rick Jacobs, the leader of Reform Jewish movement spoke out against “disheartening” statements in the campaign and said “Israel deserves better.”

As news of Netanyahu’s win began to settle in, the U.S. rebuked the Prime Minister over his words in the last few days of the campaign, as he aimed to shore up support. “The Obama Administration is deeply concerned by the use of divisive rhetoric in Israel that sought to marginalize Arab Israeli citizens,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Netanyahu is now trying to find coalition partners with whom to build a new government, which may be an uphill battle. But repairing relations with his international partners, like the “special relationship” between Jerusalem and Washington, may prove even harder.

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TIME Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Disgrace in Victory

Israel's Prime Minister won a tragic election by vilifying Arabs and defacing Israel’s history 

A few years ago, I drove from Jerusalem to the West Bank, to the city of Bethlehem, to have dinner with TIME’s Palestinian stringer, the late Jamil Hamad. He was a gentle and sophisticated man, soft-spoken, and levelheaded when it came to politics. After dinner, I drove back to Jerusalem and had to pass through the bleak, forbidding security wall. An Israeli soldier asked for my papers; I gave her my passport. “You’re American!” she said, not very officially. “I love America. Where are you from?” New York, I said. “Wow,” she said, with a big smile. And then she turned serious. “What were you doing in there,” she asked, nodding toward the Palestinian side, “with those animals?”

And that, of course, is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won” the Israeli election. That is how he won the election even though there was a strong economic case against him, and people were tired of his ways, and about 200 former Israeli military and intelligence leaders publicly opposed his dangerously bellicose foreign policy. He won because he ran as a bigot. This is a sad reality: a great many Jews have come to regard Arabs as the rest of the world traditionally regarded Jews. They have had cause. There have been wars, indiscriminate rockets and brutal terrorist attacks. There has been overpowering anti-Jewish bigotry on the Arab side, plus loathsome genocidal statements from the Iranians and others. But there has been a tragic sense of superiority and destiny on the Israeli side as well.

This has been true from the start. Read Ari Shavit’s brilliant conundrum of a book, My Promised Land, and you will get chapter and verse about the massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland. It may be argued that the massacres were necessary, that Israel could not have been created without them, but they were massacres nonetheless. Women and children were murdered. It was the sort of behavior that is only possible when an enemy has been dehumanized. That history haunted Netanyahu’s rhetoric in the days before the election, when he scared Jews into voting for him because, he said, the Arabs were coming to polls in buses, in droves, fueled by foreign money.

It should be noted that those Arabs represent about 20% of the population of Israel. About 160,000 of them are Christian, and some of them are descendants of the first followers of Jesus. Almost all of them speak Hebrew. Every last one is a citizen—and it has been part of Israel’s democratic conceit that they are equal citizens. The public ratification of Netanyahu’s bigotry put the lie to that.

Another conceit has been that the Israeli populace favors a two-state solution. That may still be true, but the surge of voters to the Likud party in the days after Netanyahu denied Palestinian statehood sends the message that a critical mass of Israeli Jews supports the idea of Greater Israel, including Judea and Samaria on the West Bank. This puts Israeli democracy in peril. The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution. That state can only be Jewish, in the long run, if West Bank Arabs are denied the right to vote.

There will be many—in the Muslim world, in Europe—who will say that the results are no surprise, that Israel has become a harsh, bigoted tyrant state. It has certainly acted that way at times, but usually with excellent provocation. It is an appalling irony that the Israeli vote brought joy to American neoconservatives and European anti-Semites alike.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother would sing me to sleep with the Israeli national anthem. It still brings tears to my eyes. My near annual visits to Israel have always been memorable. About a decade ago, I was at a welcoming ceremony for new immigrants—­thousands of them, Russians and Iranians and Ethiopians. And I thought, if Ethiopians and Russians could join that way, why not, eventually, Semites and Semites, Jews and Arabs?

That was the dream—that somehow Jews and Arabs could make it work, could eventually, together, create vibrant societies that would transcend bigotry and exist side by side. The dream was that the unifying force of common humanity and ethnicity would, for once, trump religious exceptionalism. It was always a long shot. It seems impossible now. For the sake of his own future, Benjamin Netanyahu has made dreadful Jewish history: he is the man who made anti-Arab bigotry an overt factor in Israeli political life. This is beyond tragic. It is shameful and embarrassing.

Read next: What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

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TIME Israel

What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

A lasting settlement for a chronic conflict has rarely seemed so far away

Benjamin Netanyahu has survived a serious political challenge, despite a chorus of complaints about his leadership style as well as gripes over living costs, housing prices, and wages. That would be a bigger surprise in countries where peacetime elections tend to focus on economics. But in Israel, “peacetime” is a relative concept, and this is a country with so many active political parties that winning 30 of 120 seats in parliament allows you to form a government.

How did he do it? First, he recognized that his party needed to win back the votes of hardliners on the peace process who threatened to stray toward the far-right parties. Thus his message became simple: No deals with Iran, no state for Palestinians, and don’t let Arab voters decide the election. It worked. He’ll now form what is likely to be an unwieldy, unstable coalition of the center-right, and then he’ll have to govern.

Netanyahu is likely to pursue a series of controversial policies, such as adoption of the Jewish nationhood bill that would define Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” though 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. It might also establish Jewish law as an inspiration for future legislation, and delist Arabic as an official language. Expect the construction of more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In response, Palestinians will push harder to win recognition of statehood at the United Nations, with sympathy from some European governments. Violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will probably intensify.

MORE 5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israeli Relations

Expect even tougher relations with the Obama Administration and more criticism from European capitals, but Netanyahu can manage these problems because Israel’s position in the Middle East has actually strengthened in the past couple of years. The Israeli and Egyptian governments have common enemies in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel and Turkey share enmity toward Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis, Emiratis and others are far more concerned with future threats from Iran than with current help for Palestinians. All these factors ease pressure on Netanyahu to change direction on current policy.

Unfortunately, this leaves the Palestinians with nothing but frustration. A lasting settlement for this chronic conflict has rarely seemed so far away.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy.

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TIME Israel

Netanyahu Defeats Main Rival in Israeli Vote

Focus quickly shifted toward the formation of a coalition government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party handily beat its main rival in Tuesday’s elections, official results showed as Israelis awoke Wednesday morning, despite initial exit polls that suggested a closer vote.

Likud won 30 of the 120 seats up for grabs in Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, over the Zionist Union’s 24 seats, according to the elections committee’s tally. That’s a far cry from Tuesday evening, when exit polls conducted by three major Israeli television channels had indicated a relative tie, at 27, between the two parties.

Netanyahu declared victory in an early morning speech as the votes were still being counted.

“Dear friends, against all odds we have achieved a great victory for Likud, for the national camp which is headed by Likud, for our people,” he told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv. “Now we must form a strong and stable government that will care for the security and welfare of all of Israel’s citizens.”

The results are a disappointment for the Zionist Union — headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni — which for weeks had shown a four-seat lead over Netanyahu in various opinion polls, and for members of a nonpartisan campaign calling itself V15 (Victory 2015), which declared its main goal was to get Israelis out to vote for any party that would dislodge Netanyahu from power.

When, at one point in the night, the Zionist camp appeared to have won an equal number of seats to Likud, it too claimed to have received a mandate to form a new government. Herzog, speaking a little after midnight, told his supporters that the result of the election would “bring Labor back into power” after 16 years on the sidelines.

“This is a big victory for the Labor Party, which hasn’t done this well since Yitzhak Rabin won in 1992,” he said. He called on the “social parties” — all those who campaigned to help Israelis weather the skyrocketing cost of living here — to unite under him to form “a real reconciliation government.”

Herzog called Netanyahu on Wednesday to congratulate him on his victory, but would not say whether the Zionist Union would consider joining a Netanyahu-led government.

With more than 99% of the votes counted, focus is quickly shifting toward the formation of the coalition government. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had announced late Tuesday night that he would call on the two leading parties to construct a government. With Likud enjoying such a clear lead, it’s likely Rivlin will put it to Netanyahu to form one.

After each election, Israel’s President is charged with inviting the head of one or more of the largest parties to form a coalition. But in Israel’s fractured political system, being the party with the most votes does not necessarily mean having enough votes to cobble together a government. Given the bitter invective Likud and the Zionist Union have used against each other in the past few months, however, it is difficult to envision them coming together to form a unity government with a rotating premiership, as had been done in decades past. It is possible, however, that Netanyahu will have made so many enemies of late that he’ll find it tough to get to the seats he needs to form a coalition.

As Likud and the Zionist Union now start totaling up their potential partners’ projected Knesset seats to see if they might be able to come up with the right sum to present a ruling coalition — a minimum of 61 of the 120 — centrist parties become the cornerstones for building a new government. In this, all eyes are on Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud party member and government minister under Netanyahu who broke away to form the Kulanu party. Exit polls showed it winning nine or 10 seats, with the latter as the final count. While that only makes it the fifth-largest party to be elected, Kahlon’s preferences can either make or break a coalition on offer by either Netanyahu or Herzog.

But Kahlon already rejected an eleventh-hour promise from Netanyahu to be Finance Minister in favor of an endorsement, saying the Premier has too often failed to keep his word. The waters were further muddied on the eve of the elections when a fabricated ad — essentially an audio-clip job put out by the Likud campaign — made Kahlon sound as if he were fully behind Netanyahu. Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, who heads the Central Elections Committee, forced Likud to stop using the ad and ordered it to pay a fine of about $5,000. Kahlon said the tape was deceitful and added he could he no longer support a party that “lost its compassion and its social way,” according to the website of the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. “That is exactly why I left the Likud.”

Getting slightly more votes than Kahlon was the Yesh Atid party, clocking in at 11 seats. Its leader, Yair Lapid, was Netanyahu’s Finance Minister in the last government but was fired in November when he opposed the Prime Minister on several fronts, from economics to a controversial “nation-state bill” that opponents say is a step back for Israeli democracy. Given that his falling-out was part of the reason Netanyahu dissolved his government and called for new elections in December, he doesn’t make for a promising coalition material either.

The third-largest party, meanwhile, is the Joint List, a recently unified slate of several Arab parties. This party might join in a government led by Herzog — if at all. In the hours before the polls, Netanyahu released a video and a tweet urging his supporters to go out to vote because the “the Arabs are voting in droves,” and saying that “left” had been “busing Arabs to the polls.” The message led to charges of racist campaigning from Netanyahu’s critics and made it unlikely that Netanyahu could find a way to mend fences with Israel’s Arab minority, or the Palestinians, for that matter. On the eve of the elections, he said that if he remains Prime Minister there would be no Palestinian state.

Despite all of that, many analysts said Netanyahu still looked like he had the upper hand in being able to form a coalition. Although he moved well ahead of the Zionist Union, he still has many other coalition partners to choose from, including the ultra-Orthodox parties as well as Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, which largely represents the interests of West Bank settlers and their hopes of expansion.

Bennett’s party won eight seats compared to the 13 it had in the last Knesset. But the party’s relative strength and Bennett’s alliance with Netanyahu points to a path of expanded settlement growth, something that keeps Israel on a collision course with the international community, including the Obama administration, which has called them a hindrance to the peace process. Bennett has long expressed opposition to a Palestinian state.

“Netanyahu has withstood with most serious challenge he faced in continuing as Prime Minister and at the moment has the better chance of forming a government, though it’s certainly not going to be as easy,” said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a public-opinion expert at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

“Netanyahu has to make a major decision: whether he wants to form a small, narrow coalition” of center and right-wing parties, added Ben-Meir, or whether to “form a national unity government based on parity between the two largest parties … which is a surprise because the expectation was that neither one of these would be so high, certainly the Likud. What we can say is that Israel has kept to its tradition of surprises in elections. And that nothing is really clear until all the votes are counted.”

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