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Right-wing world leaders congratulate Netanyahu on likely election victory

Brendan Smialowski, AFP | US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up a Golan Heights proclamation outside the West Wing after a meeting in the White House on March 25.
Brendan Smialowski, AFP | US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up a Golan Heights proclamation outside the West Wing after a meeting in the White House on March 25.

World leaders reacted Wednesday to a likely electoral victory for Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with fellow right-wing leaders hailing his triumph while others were more circumspect.

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US President Donald Trump said the preliminary results handing a narrow victory to Netanyahu offer a "better chance" for an as-yet-to-be-unveiled US peace plan.

"I'd like to congratulate" Netanyahu, said Trump, after nearly complete results put the incumbent premier in position to form a coalition and extend his long tenure.

Trump predicted a boost to his administration's promised plan for a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "The fact that Bibi (Netanyahu) won, I think we'll see some pretty good action in terms of peace," Trump said.

"Everybody said, 'You can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians'. I think we have a chance and I think we now have a better chance," he said.

During the campaign Netanyahu highlighted his close relationship with Trump, who delighted some Israelis and angered Palestinians by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and moving the US embassy to the holy city last May.

Two weeks before the Israeli election, Trump signed a proclamation  with Netanyahu at his side recognising Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Italy's right-wing deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, tweeted his own congratulations to his "friend" Netanyahu.

Salvini, who is head of the far-right League party, also sent a "big hug" to the Israeli people in a comment accompanied by a photograph of Salvini and Netanyahu shaking hands and smiling.

Austria's right-wing Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted that, “one matter is clear: you (Netanyahu) have once again gained the trust of the people of Israel in record numbers”.

The response from other countries was more subdued.

Germany has pledged to work closely with any new Israeli government and stressed the "cordial" ties between the two countries despite recent differences on Israel's settlement policies.

Foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said Israel is already fully aware of Germany's concerns about Jewish settlements on occupied territory.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on Netanyahu's possible re-election to a record fifth term, saying that Berlin was waiting for official results, expected Thursday. "Israel lies in a region with enormous challenges, which is why it's important to form a government quickly," he told reporters.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Israel "must put aside the populism and the rhetoric, it must abandon its aggressive stance", now that the elections are over.

His comments were an apparent reference to Netanyahu's recent pledge to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank if he wins the election.

If victorious, Netanyahu would capture a fourth consecutive term and fifth overall, which would make him Israel's longest-ever serving leader, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, and REUTERS)

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