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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Israeli Exit Poll: Too Close to Call in Netanyahu-Gantz Race; Netanyahu, Gantz Both Claim Victory in Israeli Election; Theresa May Meets Merkel, Macron Before Key Brexit Summit. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 9, 2019 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Each parties will have its own demands for ministries, for policies and for money. A Prime Minister has to

balance all of that to form a coalition and that can take weeks to complete. Oren Liebermann, CNN.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Right, well, the first exit poll job seconds away. Now, David Horovitz is editor of "The Times of Israel," and he joins

me now. Literally seconds away, best guess?

DAVID HOROVITZ, EDITOR, THE TIMES OF ISRAEL: I think it would be very close between the Gantz and Netanyahu parties, everything will hinge on the

other little parties.

ANDERSON: Right, well, let's just have a look at what we've got here. And those are the numbers for you. So walk me through them; 36 for Netanyahu,

37 for Benny Gantz.

HOROVITZ: Well, first of all, we should stress those two parties, if those polls are right, are doing better than people thought they would. The two

major parties getting a higher proportion of the 120 Knesset seats that we thought that they would.

We see the Labor Party, the Arab Party, the ultra-orthodox parties doing pretty much the way they would. You know, that what we said before, Becky,

what we've said over and again, exit polls are historically wrong in Israel. They can't be ultra-reliable. These are not exactly the trends

that we saw coming up in two weeks before the elections. Gantz and Netanyahu doing better. It will be more complicated to see as the evening

plays out. Are they rights about some of these smaller parties?

I say, again, we're going to have several hours between the time when these exit polls come out, and the real figure starts to come out. But the first

thing that we can see from those polls, bigger scores for the two big parties and trouble for some of the smaller parties.

ANDERSON: Why do you think that was?

HOROVITZ: Look, you know what, it became a very personality obsessed campaign. Maybe you know, people made a choice. They really wanted

Netanyahu to stay on as Prime Minister and therefore they put aside some of them more narrow interest or they really wanted rid of Netanyahu and

therefore they went to the Gantz.

ANDERSON: The most important thing at this point is to point out that neither of these parties can govern on their own.

HOROVITZ: We've never had single policy government in Israel. It's going to be three, four, five parties in any coalition, that's for sure.

ANDERSON: Right. Let's talk about these blocs then. The Gantz bloc would be Blue and White, it would be Labor and will be --

HOROVITZ: Gantz's natural allies, I suppose you might say would be the Labor Party, maybe merits further to the left. He would want to be able to

draw some of the more centrist or rightist parties. There's a party called Kulanu. There's a party further to the right, it is very alienated from

Netanyahu, but again, it will depend on the final figures.

Netanyahu's natural allies are the ultra-orthodox parties and the right- wing parties. The ultra-orthodox parties are upset with Netanyahu for saying, "Just vote Likud. Don't vote for us." So many machinations can

lie ahead.

ANDERSON: How important are the Arab parties?

HOROVITZ: Well, initial polls would show -- I suddenly saw one of the Arab parties safely clearing the threshold. The second one, not so clear.

There was a concern that maybe both would fall under the threshold that would have weakened Gantz and strengthened Netanyahu because during the

day, we thought that the turnout in the Arab sector was fairly low. That may well be the case. Again, the final results, you know, could be

somewhat different from these exit polls.

ANDERSON: If this were a referendum on Netanyahu, what do these results suggest?

HOROVITZ: See, again, now we're looking at a second exit poll, which shows Gantz's party four seats ahead of Likud. I stress again, there are at

least three exit polls coming out tonight. If all of the exit polls end up giving Gantz a bigger lead, his path maybe got a little bit easier. If

they are neck and neck again, depending on the smaller parties, Netanyahu, you know could still sail quite happily to victory.

I can only -- I know it's instant television and the polls have come out and we want to say who has won the election. We don't know who has won the

election. We think we know because one party is bigger than the other. It doesn't mean that that party won the election. You know, the next few

hours will be a little more clearer.

ANDERSON: How different are their policies? Where does Netanyahu stand? And where does Benny Gantz stand?

HOROVITZ: So externally, Netanyahu would say, "I'm tough. I've got great relations with world leaders, with the Trump's, with the Putin's. Gantz

can't match me on any of that." And internally, of course, "I'm the best thing. I'm healing the economy and people are doing well here." Gantz

would say, "I can keep the country safe. I can forge good relations and I'm going to be a healer internally." That's the big difference.

Netanyahu says, "I command the world stage and I drive this country forward." Gantz says, "I can keep Israel safe and I'm going to bring

harmony to the internal social fabric of the State of Israel."

ANDERSON: How big an effect did Donald Trump having this election?

HOROVITZ: It's very interesting, you know, if at the end of the counting, Netanyahu is sailing ahead to his fifth term in office and becoming the

longest serving Prime Minister, we will say, well Trump didn't do him any harm. He recognized Israeli sovereignty at the Golan, having recognizes

Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

[15:05:00] HOROVITZ: He defined the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terror group just the other day. Vladimir Putin, you could say helped

Netanyahu as well. An IDF soldier killed 37 years ago, his returns were -- his remains were returned for burial just a few days ago. Those things you

would have thought would help Netanyahu. If it turns out that Gantz has done better than accepted? Well, not enough, apparently.

ANDERSON: Let's remind our viewers as we move. Five minutes after these first exit polls, I can give you now an exit poll carried out by one of the

organizations here and just walk through. This is Channel 12. Just walk through what you are seeing here because it's a little bit more of an idea

about these blocs, David.

HOROVITZ: Yes, so you know, if this were to come to pass, it's better than things have been looking for Gantz. But you know, I keep going with those

ifs. Why do I say that? Because Blue and White has 37 compared to Likud, Netanyahu's 33. Both of the Arab parties are in the Knesset with six seats

each according to this opinion poll, and so on.

Again, we have three television stations. We've already seen with differing results, although they say we're really, really good and we're

going to get it right this time. You know, so many parties. You mentioned 40 running for office, they'll probably be 10, 11, 12, 13 that make it into

the Parliament.

ANDERSON: Standby, sir. Let's get you to Oren Liebermann who is that the election headquarters for Benjamin Netanyahu. Atmosphere, sir, if you

will.

LIEBERMANN: Becky, there is some music playing here, but other than that, it is incredibly quiet here as all of the Likud supporters that have come

out, all of the supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party and it is still I should say, fairly empty at this point are digesting what

they've just seen.

Now two polls we've seen from Channel 12, one of the main newscasters here, as well as Channel 11, the public broadcaster showing its former Chief of

Staff Benny Gantz, the main rival here who has come out with what appears to be a four seat lead if the election polls hold.

They are trying to comprehend that and trying to figure out how this goes. The blocs appear to be quite even. They know Netanyahu has the advantage

there. They know it is Netanyahu who has the advantage when it comes to putting together a right-wing coalition, if all of those smaller right-wing

parties get enough votes to make it into the Knesset. But still this is a major blow to Netanyahu as he is seeking a fifth term in office and seeking

to become Israel's longest serving Prime Minister.

One thing that is worth pointing out, it's easy to look at this and ask, how did Netanyahu do so well? He went from 30 to 33 seats if the election

post hold, despite facing criminal investigations. But don't forget this was also Netanyahu's golden age. He had President Donald Trump in the

White House who for the last two weeks has been giving Netanyahu political gift after political gift.

First, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu. That was a major win for Netanyahu, as

was U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, as was the U.S. designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror

organization, which Netanyahu took some pretty for.

Despite that, it looks like, if these election polls hold, Netanyahu has lost this by a significant margin, by four seats. It's also worth pointing

out that again, if the numbers hold and it is 37 seats for the Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz, that's a number Netanyahu has never achieved.

Thirty seven seats is a major, major number.

It's difficult to overstate that it is a major number, a very big win, a very big number for Benny Gantz as he seeks to form his own coalition. But

you get the sense here that they're still trying to comprehend that here, still trying to figure out is there some way for Netanyahu to claim

victory? Is there a path for victory? It will be a long night of vote counting to see if those election numbers hold up. What this election

looks like? Is it the last one for Netanyahu -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Let's caveat this as you've been rightly pointing out once again by saying these are just exit polls. Benny Gantz, the man making this a

two-horse race of course is Blue and White Party didn't exist at the beginning of this year. But surveys put the party in the lead just days

before the vote.

Part of his appeal to Israelis is that he is new to politics. He headed the country's military in wars in Gaza in 2012 and 2014. Politically,

Gantz aims to appeal to the center. He is not anti-establishment. He is anti-Netanyahu. Let's get to his election headquarters and to Michael

Holmes, so what is the mood there? This sounds as if it ought to be rather celebration, despite the fact these are just exit polls, of course.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. Becky, let me put it this way. I've got two earpieces in, and I can hardly hear you. They are

banging drums behind me. They are shouting, "Our next Prime Minister is Benny Gantz." They may be getting ahead of themselves.

I heard you talking to Oren. This is preliminary. They are exit polls. They've been wrong. They were wrong in the last election, but they are a

pointer. And this, if it is, if it holds true is a stunning, stunning performance by Benny Gantz. I mean, they're going crazy back there. I can

tell you that right now.

[15:10:10] HOLMES: Now, what is interesting also, and we need to point this out, in all of the polls so far, Blue and White are leading. We've

talked about the Channel 12 poll. In all those polls, the Blue and White are leading, but every poll has different parties in terms of the makeup

and who is passing the threshold.

We've talked about this 3.25 percent threshold you need to get seats in the Knesset. If you don't meet that threshold, you're seats and your votes

don't count. And in recent days, Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to court votes away from some of the smaller right-wing parties, trying to do

better in that head-to-head and be given the chance to form a coalition.

We always said that could backfire. There are reports at the moment that two of those right-wing party -- smaller ones -- did not meet the

threshold. They would have been coalition partners with Benjamin Netanyahu. If that holds true as well, and those smaller right-wing

parties didn't make the threshold, by taking votes away from them, Benjamin Netanyahu may have picked up a couple of seats, but last couple of key

coalition partners.

And that's why in this exit poll, you're seeing the 60-60, a dead heat basically. If these hold, you can imagine that it might be Benny Gantz the

President will ask to form a coalition. Again, caveat, these polls have been inaccurate before. So we're going to have to wait over the next

couple of hours, three hours, or four hours, we might get more concrete results and more concrete tallies.

Now I'm just being told now that some parties are very close to that threshold and only when we have those final votes will we know who made it

and who did not. And that will change the makeup of this election enormously.

If two or three parties on either side didn't make the threshold or some did, then that that could really change the whole ball game.

Now, we were hearing that two of the right-wing parties did not, according to one of the polls make the threshold. There's a lot of horse trading

going on. Who made the threshold and who did not -- is going to be key in all of this, Becky.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Michael is at election headquarters then for the Blue and White Party. Let's just bring back this exit polling that Michael

has just been alluding to, and we're looking at the projected blocs here, blocs of seats.

If -- this is Channel 12's. Sixty two, Netanyahu; 48 to Gantz and 12 to the Arab parties. We've got a couple of other projections out here.

Channel 13, looking at 66-54 for Bibi -- for Benjamin Netanyahu and 11 Looking at 64-56. David Horovitz is with me and therein, once again lies

the problem with exit polls.

You were explaining to me earlier on that as we move through the next couple of hours, it is going to be a couple of hours, but much more than

that, this polling will get better. And it will become much clearer where we stand.

HOROVITZ: Okay, you know, viewers are around the world are used to electoral systems with a few parties. Israel has 39 parties running.

About a dozen or so have a chance of getting in. There is a three and a quarter percent threshold nationwide. Fall below that, you get no seats.

Clear it, you get a minimum of four. There's only 120 seats in Parliament.

ANDERSON: Sixty one, the magic number.

HOROVITZ: That begins -- right, that begins to give you an idea of how complicated the polling is. Three exit polls tonight. They all say

they're wonderful, and yet they're giving you widely divergent results. One of them has Netanyahu with a straightforward path to government with a

multi-party coalition; one of them has Gantz with a reasonable possibility.

And therefore, as you say, in the next few hours, only a few hours, maybe three, four hours, as they mix their polling estimates with the real

results, they'll get closer and closer to the final result and it will begin to become clearer.

One last thing, Becky, even when we know how all the seats are allocated, that doesn't necessarily mean we will know who can put together a

coalition. There could still be lots of bargaining and change preferences and deals and so on.

ANDERSON: And that decision, of course, down to the President, it is up to him to decide who to ask.

HOROVITZ: Right. It's the President who has no real power, except every now and again when we have elections and he calls in all the heads of the

parties who've got into the Knesset. He asks them, "Who do you want me to give the job of forming a coalition?" They make their recommendations, and

then he makes his choice.

With a little bit of leeway, he doesn't really like Netanyahu, but he won't do anything that is outrageous. So again, he'll be waiting for those final

results and then the recommendations of the elected Knesset members.

[15:15:01] ANDERSON: Let's assume that these exit polls are sort of there or there about. What they suggest is a completely divided Israeli voting

public. You know, we're looking 60-60, maybe 64-56? What does that say about Israeli society? What is it that Israelis, Jews and Arabs, what do

they want from their lawmakers? From their government? From their Prime Minister these days?

HOROVITZ: It's a really wonderful question, and it's very hard to answer quickly, you know, the Arab sector voted for the Arab parties, according to

some of the polls in sufficient numbers for them to get their seats in Parliament. We have to say that Gantz seems to have done fairly well in

all of the polls. That means a lot of Israelis were prepared to vote for a political neophyte. He has got no experience whatsoever. Part of that

will be because they just don't want Netanyahu anymore.

And yet we've seen Netanyahu with these corruption charges hanging over his head, this divisive, bigger, nonetheless, at least, with a very good chance

of remaining in power. So it's a very divided country, with all kinds of imperatives. We haven't even talked about the ultra-orthodox, the very

left wing people, the settler community. They're all playing in. They are all choosing in this election. Do we vote for a settler party? Or a left

wing party? Or do we vote for Netanyahu? Or Gantz?

Because those big issues are more important than our more personal issues. Such a complicated electorate.

ANDERSON: At this stage in the proceedings, what we can't say is that Mr. Netanyahu has left the public stage, but we certainly cannot say that he

will be crowned King Bibi this evening, correct?

HOROVITZ: I'm not even sure we can't say that second thing. I think we can say he might yet be again crowned King Bibi, or he might not. And

we're going to have to wait a little longer.

ANDERSON: Sorry viewers, stay with us couple of hours. We promise that we will get you a better idea. So we're going to take a short break. I can't

promise after this short break that we will give you a better idea. But give us it little bit of time. This is how it works. It is, well,

exciting times, difficult time. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, the polls have closed in the Israeli election. They closed about 20 minutes ago. Of course, the magic number 61. We've got an

exit poll showing the projected number of seats per bloc.

[15:20:01] ANDERSON: That would give on this exit poll, at least Netanyahu with his right wing bloc 60 seats. Benny Gantz, many call the centrist

with 48 and the Arab parties with 12.

Caveat guys, these are just exit polls. They have been historically inaccurate. We're working with them for the time being, work with us, as

we get more information.

When it comes to holding on to power, Mr. Netanyahu is banking on U.S. influence. He has aligned himself with Donald Trump Monday. He thanked

the U.S. President for designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group.

But he has praised Mr. Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. More than that, in a series of controversial moves,

President Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Daniel Shapiro is the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel who joins me now this evening. Before we talk about where we are at here with this U.S.-

Israeli relationship. Your initial thoughts on these exit polls that we are seeing now being delivered by Israeli broadcasters.

DANIEL SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL (via Skype): Becky, you observed earlier that this is a very divided country, Israel, as they go to

the polls, and I think the division very much came down to the people's feelings about the Prime Minister himself, Bibi Netanyahu.

On the one side you had people who felt Bibi fatigue. He's been in power for 10 years, 13 total. People are tired of his political style. We know

he is under -- will soon be under indictment for corruption allegations. And then there are people who consider him indispensable, the indispensable

Netanyahu. He is the only leader who has the experience and the knowledge and the ability to manage all of Israel's challenges, complicated

international relationships.

And that division, in fact, I think was so strong that it produced better votes for both of the large parties, causing some of the smaller party to

miss their number they needed to get to get into the Knesset. So it appears that the division was stark, it was strong, and it compelled people

to flock to those two main parties to try to see that their side whether, it's Bibi fatigue or indispensable Netanyahu prevailed.

ANDERSON: Daniel, if Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't end up being asked to form a government, and it is very unclear at this point whether he will or not.

We are working on exit polls. We should get a better idea over the next couple of hours. But if he isn't asked, it won't be many say for want of

Donald Trump not trying to help him get elected. How big has this Trump effect been in this election?

SHAPIRO: Well, I don't think there's any question that President Trump made it clear that he strongly supported Benjamin Netanyahu was reelection.

He did do the recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights when the Prime Minister visited Washington about two weeks ago.

He sent his Secretary of State here just a couple of weeks before that for a very warm visit. Just this week, he announced the designation of the

Iranian Republican Guard as a terrorist organization. I don't think there is any question he was trying.

In fact, I was walking down a street in Tel Aviv today and saw the Likud campaign truck go by and it had a huge photograph of Netanyahu and Trump

shaking hands, big smiles on their faces. That was clearly part of their campaign.

But I have to be honest, I think the effect was rather limited. I think Israelis felt strongly about their leader, pro or con and the Trump choice

who tried to help him I think had a fairly limited effect on their decision about how they were going to vote. The polls out here base -- like most

voters do -- on their feelings about their leaders, not how other people feel about their leaders.

ANDERSON: Daniel, there's been sort of a vague promise that the deal of the century would be delivered by the U.S. administration, by the Trump

administration after this election, some talking about sort of mid-May at this point. I've talked to a lot of people here who say this deal of the

century isn't dead.

In fact, it's being implemented by a creep in front of the Palestinians eyes at this point. What, if anything, does this election, these numbers,

these exit polls tell us about where Israel will be with regards the Palestinians going forward?

SHAPIRO: Well, that's going to depend very much on who actually forms the government. Neither of these leaders who sees a real opportunity right now

to resume negotiations with the Palestinian leadership that is very weak and President Abbas who is nearing the end of his political career, and so

there's a transition underway on the Palestinian side.

[15:25:00] SHAPIRO: So neither is ready to launch negotiations. But Gantz, if he is the Prime Minister has said he wants to try to find a way

to keep that possibility alive, to keep the two-state solution viable, even if it takes many years to get back into negotiations, and to try to do

things that stabilize a situation and prevent a slide for the one-state reality.

Netanyahu on the other side, who has historically not been a strong supporter of a two-state solution, although briefly endorsed it about eight

or nine years ago, just this past weekend, endorsed annexation of parts of the West Bank. And he will potentially be under a lot of pressure from his

coalition partners to follow through on that, just as he is facing indictments that needs their help to survive politically.

So in that situation, it would certainly accelerate the slide away from a two-state solution and towards some sort of one-state reality. So I don't

see neither - either case and with any help from the Trump administration talk starting, but the question of whether you're keeping the two-state

solution alive and viable for a future effort very much could hinge on which of these two leaders becomes the Prime Minister.

ANDERSON: Right. You're looking at an Israel election exit poll. The polls closing just about 25 minutes ago. Daniel Shapiro is speaking to us

this evening with his thoughts and analysis on where we are.

Oren Liebermann is at the Netanyahu Election Night Center in Tel Aviv. Oren, what have you got?

LIEBERMANN: Becky, we just got a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming victory for his right-wing blocs and he has already

spoken with his right-wing coalition partners parties and he is claiming victory despite being behind in one of the polls and two other polls

showing a very close race. I'll read you the statement, it says, "The right-wing bloc with the leadership of the Likud has scored a complete

victory. I thank the citizens of Israel for their confidence. I will start putting together a government with our natural partners."

And then a short time later saying he has spoken to those right-wing parties and he is ready at this point to claim victory. That is certainly

a departure from one of the polls we've already seen, which showed a 37 to 33 lead for Netanyahu's rival. Two other polls, again showed it very

close.

Now, this is just based on exit polling. So there is still a long night of counting votes ahead and things could change. It is, I should point out

still quite quiet here behind me as the results are digested. But those Likud have said they are quietly confident that the numbers will shift in

their favor and that they'll be able to put together a government.

It's an interesting situation here where you've had Gantz claim victory on his end from that first election poll that came out that showed that he had

a four-seat lead and now it is Netanyahu claiming victory, not just for himself, but the entire right-wing bloc saying he has spoken with the

parties with which he will form a government. He's ready to form that government.

Netanyahu eyeing a fifth term as Israel's leader, as well as becoming Israel's longest serving Prime Minister surpassing David Ben-Gurion,

Israel's first Prime Minister, a venerable leader. Now that title of the country's longest leader being claimed by Netanyahu, as he says he has won

with his right-wing bloc -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Right. Well, both parties claiming victory then. We are closing in on a real result. Votes in, they are being tallied. We are

bringing you the very latest here in Israel. Do stay with us. Taking a very short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:30:00]

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Well, voting is now over in Israel, according to one exit poll at least, the race between Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the former Army chief Benny Gantz too close to call. Two other exit polls say Mr. Netanyahu does have enough support

to form the next coalition government.

Again, it's important to remember these are only exit polls, the actual votes have yet to be counted. Let's get you to Michael Holmes in Tel Aviv.

He's at the Benny Gantz Blue and White Party election night headquarters, and we've just been speaking to Warren Lieberman who has received a

statement from Benjamin Netanyahu claiming victory. As I understand it, a similar claim from where you are.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, I'll put on my glasses for this one, Becky. Benny Gantz says "we won", the Israeli public

has had their say, and he thanks activists and a million voters, he said "these elections have a clear winner and a clear loser."

Now, you put that up against Benjamin Netanyahu, who says "Likud won a clear victory and he's going to start forming a government as early as this

evening. So that sums up what exit polls can do after an election. You've got one poll pretty much a tossup against a head to head, pretty much equal

on the blocks, and then a couple of other exit polls that show a path to Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a right-wing coalition government.

What we really need, and we will get over the next few hours are the real numbers, and we will see exactly where it stands then. These are

indications certainly, a good performance by Benny Gantz at Blue and White. Is it enough to get him to be the one the president asks to form a

coalition.

We'll know in the hours ahead. Interestingly, one of those polls, one of the reliable exit polls said that two of the right-wing parties that would

normally be in a Benjamin Netanyahu coalition didn't meet the threshold of 3.25 percent that you need to get seats in the Knesset.

If that stands up, if that is true, then that is a big blow in terms of the coalition building for Mr. Netanyahu. But I can tell you, no matter what

the end result is at the end of the night, they're pretty happy here at Benny Gantz headquarters, they've been chanting, who is our Prime Minister,

it's Benny Gantz.

Might be a little premature when the night is over and votes are actually tallied. Becky?

ANDERSON: Michael Holmes at Benny Gantz's headquarters. Professor Gideon Rahat is director of the political reform program at the Israel Democracy

Institute, and he joins me now here on set in Jerusalem. Sir, what do you make of what we have seen to date.

And let's remind ourselves 34 minutes past 10:00 here, which means we have had these exit polls for just about a half hour.

GIDEON RAHAT, DIRECTOR OF THE POLITICAL REFORM PROGRAM, ISRAEL DEMOCRACY INSTITUTE: Yes, well, basically, when I look at the basic -- the exit

polls, I think about the elections of 2009, in which Kadima had the majority, but the Likud won. It looks the same.

Gantz have a majority in terms of a one party plurality, but the right-wing bloc seems to have a majority. However, we have to remember two things, we

have the electoral threshold, 3.25 percent. It's two or three political parties on one side on the right, do not pass the threshold, it changes

things.

[15:35:00] We have to remember another thing, as much as I remember all exit polls, all opinion polls in Israel tend to be biased toward the left.

So these are good news for Netanyahu, and when we see the real results, I wouldn't be surprised if we will get a little more votes, more seats,

unless the guide that make the polls has taken it into account --

ANDERSON: Sure --

RAHAT: And maybe they biased it on purpose.

ANDERSON: Be that as it may, neither side should really at this stage be claiming victory, correct?

RAHAT: Well, I think that they claim victory in order to create a momentum. Netanyahu in order to create a momentum and start the coalition

negotiations with his potential allies, and Gantz trying to draw one or two of the likes of Netanyahu to come and talk with him.

ANDERSON: If you listened to Benjamin Netanyahu in the past sort of 24 or 48 hours, you would have thought that he was facing a catastrophe. He was

appealing -- urging voters of Likud to get out. Don't be complacent, he said. You know, you are facing catastrophe with a -- with a potential

government from the left, including the Arab parties. Was that just all tactical?

RAHAT: Yes, it was all tactical, and then all of the other parties imitated it. It was a game like -- not only between the two leading

horses, between Gantz and Netanyahu. But it was also between the smaller parties in each bloc that were eager to pass that threshold, and the large

parties, they tried to draw the votes.

ANDERSON: So let's talk about these smaller parties, because they become king makers, don't they in Israeli politics. Who should we be watching out

for?

RAHAT: Well, basically, it's not true that they're king makers because I think they're already married to one or the other.

ANDERSON: Fair enough --

RAHAT: Yes --

ANDERSON: You know what I mean.

RAHAT: Yes, but there is no one party that I can say at this moment that will stand in the middle and you know, will turn to the right and the left,

who gives me more? I don't see this party. Maybe someone would try to play this game, maybe they will attempt to do it, but the history of

Israeli politics is that the religious parties always go with the right when the right can form a government, and the other parties, the leftist

parties will of course support Gantz.

ANDERSON: How significant, the Arab parties, what impact will they have? We looked at turnout earlier on, and it looked dismal up until about 6:00,

7:00 in the evening, and then it sort of got higher, 50 percent isn't great, but should there have been 50 percent? At least, there will be some

parties represented in the Knesset, correct?

RAHAT: Yes, may be two parties, maybe one party. They are -- they will not be part of the coalition. The best that they can do is not to be

against Gantz, if you have any chance or support him from outside, maybe like you have in some countries, minority coalitions.

ANDERSON: But they wouldn't help him get that magic 61?

RAHAT: They can help him have this magic 61, but this will be -- really break something new in Israeli politics. Gantz will do his best to draw

coalition partners from the right-wing bloc.

ANDERSON: Benjamin Netanyahu suggesting in these sort of dying hours of this campaign, there was some secret deal being hatched between the Arab

bloc and Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party. Did you buy that?

RAHAT: Well, I don't see that they can have any alliance. The Arabs too alienated the other parties, the Zionist parties are too far away from the

Arab parties. The best that they can do is to ask their voters to come out, so if the Arab parties have more.

Say it moves the center of Israeli politics a little to the left, and it gives Gantz the hold-on number 60 and 61. It gives him the so-called bloc

that will not allow Netanyahu to build the government. That's it --

ANDERSON: We started this conversation by saying, this is a country divided with a very polarizing character in Benjamin Netanyahu. In the

end, if we are looking at exit polls that reflect there or there about what's actually happened in this election. What does it say about Israeli

society?

RAHAT: Well, it says that Israeli society is divided. They are Arabs who are a bloc of themselves, there is the center left and there is the right-

wing religious coalition. And there is a very strong polarization between the two blocs.

[15:40:00] ANDERSON: Good evening, thank you for the time being. We are waiting to find out more information about exactly how Israelis have voted.

Prime Minister Netanyahu of course has been touting close ties to the United States. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joining

me now. Nothing more loathing, those that we have spoken to here admire Benjamin Netanyahu, at least mostly, admire him for his position on the

international stage.

He has courted and has been courted by some pretty strong armed leaders out there, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: He has, he's hosted Duterte, you know, he's been a regular almost in Moscow, side beside Putin

at the World Cup football last Summer. You know, this is a Prime Minister who scores very favorably, polling earlier this year, put him at 60 percent

mark for handling foreign policy, that was three times Benny Gantz.

But put them along both on about equal footing when it comes to security. And with President Trump and that close support that he's given Benjamin

Netanyahu, particularly in the run-up to the election, on the Golan, on the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, these have been big things

that burnish Benjamin Netanyahu's credentials as good on foreign policy, and help him win that argument that he is the best for the country, best

for Israel on security because he has the strongest, most powerful friends.

Perhaps interestingly, President Trump and the White House have been a little bit tight-lipped, although on the issue of what Prime Minister

Netanyahu has indicated a couple of days ago that he intends to do annex parts of the West Bank.

The White House has commented on that, but Netanyahu himself has sort of hinted that he has support from the White House on that issue. These are

very powerful gets for the Israeli Prime Minister as he is right now. How will, you know, Benny Gantz's leadership favor U.S. policy in the region,

it's hard to see that they would get out of step.

But it might be as one of your previous guests was saying, that Benny Gantz may keep alive the sort of current form of the past decades of U.S.

diplomacy and initiatives for Mid East peace, that of a two-state solution. So, you know, as you look at the results right now, that's one

way to think about it.

But there's no doubt at all, President Trump has been hugely beneficial in the run-up to these elections for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But

of course, we won't know how beneficial because of those low sort of polling. Or there was no -- there certainly won't be re-election -- you

certainly can't roll back those things that President Trump has done that's benefited Prime Minister Netanyahu.

ANDERSON: Sure. Nic Robertson, a diplomatic editor, a reminder -- then thank you, Nic, on where we stand before I hand you back to Richard for a

few moments. We've got exit polling showing the projected number of seats. You remember the magic number is 61 at present. Looking at the polling

from the channel 12.

Look, Netanyahu on 60, building a bloc with 60 seats, Gantz on 48, 12 Arab parties. Again, these exit polls have been historically inaccurate. I'm

Becky Anderson in Jerusalem, we'll be back with a lot more on these Israeli elections later this hour. For now, I'm going to hand you over to my

colleague, Richard Quest who is tonight in London for you. Richard?

RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Do not go far, Becky, do not go far, with these fascinating results coming out of Israel tonight, you can

have a very long and a very busy time, I know, before you get a result. Good to see you, Becky, carry on.

Now, we'll continue with the biggest news in the rest of the world, in the sense of British Prime Minister who is on a whistle stop tour of European

capitals. Now, it's all about Brexit, tomorrow is the crucial summit in Brussels, what was discussed today and what on earth will happen tomorrow?

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: The British Prime Minister has been shattering back with some thoughts across Europe for last-minute talks, trying to convince two key

neighbors to stop Brexit from happening this Friday.

First, Theresa May visited Berlin where she had talks with Angela Merkel, then on to Paris, with the meeting with the French President Emmanuel

Macron. A French government spokesman says one year of Brexit would be too long. Although the president of the European Council says there's little

reason to believe the U.K. can agree on a deal by June the 30th.

EU leaders will get together for an emergency summit on Brexit on Wednesday. They'll have a chat amongst themselves, those countries that

are on the coast to discuss the worst case scenarios and then there will be the full summit in the evening.

Jim Bittermann is in Paris. The rumor is that the French are playing very hard to get on this one. They are saying a year is too long. But Jim,

Donald Tusk and others in Germany are saying it may have to be up to two years.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they've backed off. The French have backed off that position slightly. You

remember that it wasn't that long ago that Emmanuel Macron; the president here said that he didn't want to see European Union project held hostage by

the Brexit process and he was very much in favor of this Friday deadline and the crash out and what not.

Then I think reason has prevailed because I think what is seen here is that perhaps France or maybe other members of the European Union would look like

people who had forced out if they came up with a conclusion other than an extension. So now the question is how long is the extension?

And then a spokesman came out just before Theresa May arrived here this afternoon, and basically said that the French would go ensure the end of

the year at -- he said our year like Donald Tusk had proposed a year would be too long, but at the end of the year, would perhaps work if there were

certain stipulations and those stipulations are that there would be a regular reporting procedure where the British government would report back

to the European Union on how things are going, and what they're going to do with the remaining time and their extension. Richard?

QUEST: There were some speculative nonsense that Emmanuel Macron like Charles de Gaulle and veto, you know, an extension. From what you're

saying, they've ruled that out.

BITTERMANN: I think they have. The presidential spokesman said this afternoon in a briefing to reporters, that in fact, that probably was not

going to happen, and if there was going to be an extension to the French go along with an extension and just to avoid a crash out and the kind of bad

feelings that would result from something like that.

[15:50:00] So, it looks like the partners of Germany and France are coalescing around this idea of an extension -- OK, you want an extension,

you want it to June 30th, guess what? You're going to hear it all the way to the end of the year, and just keep arguing over there in Britain.

You can't ever say that it was the Europeans who forced you out of the European Union. Richard?

QUEST: Jim Bittermann in Paris, thank you. We must return to Becky in Israel, where two candidates are claiming victory in a neck-and-neck

election race. Becky, you will take it from the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, voting in Israel ended nearly an hour ago, the exit polls showing a race that is simply too close to call. Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu's camp and Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party both claiming victory. Professor Gideon Rahat is director of the Political Reform

Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, he joins me now. So at this point, what can we say?

RAHAT: Well, it's too close. I mean, I would bet that Netanyahu's bloc is larger. But seven political parties are closer to the electoral threshold,

meaning, they might not get any representation. Five of them belong to the right, two of them belong to the left.

So these things can change the whole picture. So it's kind of a horse race between two large parties, then there are three or four parties that

clearly pass the threshold. And then the whole question is who passed the threshold? Because if a lot of parties on the right wouldn't pass the

threshold, this would diminish Netanyahu's victory in terms of political blocs.

ANDERSON: What we can say is that this is a country completely divided at this point.

RAHAT: Yes, the country is divided, the whole campaign was kind of a horse race, personal horse race, Gantz versus Netanyahu.

ANDERSON: Less about policies, more about personality. And it was a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of the day, wasn't it?

[15:55:00] RAHAT: Yes, it is, but these personalities are also kind of showing about political trends. One is Netanyahu took the wave of

populism, I represent the people, the courts are against me, the media is against me, all the elite is against me. While Gantz represented the more

-- less -- anti-populous trend. Tried to be less negative, but at the end of the day, it was a very personal campaign, very negative campaign like we

saw in many parts of the world today.

ANDERSON: The wave of populism as you rightly point out. One that we have seen elsewhere, this anti-Netanyahu campaign run by Benny Gantz again. You

know, the anti-incumbent campaign as it were, we see elsewhere. If we are to see a Netanyahu government going forward, what should we expect from

that?

RAHAT: Well, it all depends. If it will have a very stable right religious bloc, and if it will do what he claims he's going to do, he will

continue first to claim to be the representative of the people, maybe he will try to weaken the court, and at the same time might also take care of

his personal problems with the claims -- they blame him for corruption and stuff like this.

So this might be the direction. In terms of foreign policy, it have to do a lot with what President Trump will decide to do, I think.

ANDERSON: I just wonder because there has been a massive Trump effect here. A lot of people are asking, what is it that Benjamin Netanyahu has

given up. What has he conceded to Donald Trump at this point? Because he's certainly being helped out by this U.S. administration.

RAHAT: Well, it's really unclear what he's given up. I'm not sure that he's given up anything, nobody knows what Trump is expecting him. So this

is -- this is a real question, and if indeed, Trump is going to pressure him to go for concessions, so he might think about going with Gantz maybe -

-

ANDERSON: Yes --

RAHAT: To face this.

ANDERSON: Thank you, sir. It's all to play for. Richard, normally, we would in many elections have a real sense of where we are at. But this is

Israel, and this is Israel, and we don't at this point, so stay with us, viewers, the night is long. We're going to take a very short break, a long

and historic night in front of us. This is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END