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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Netanyahu, Gantz Both Claim Victory In Israel Vote; Israeli Exit Poll: Too Close To Call In Netanyahu-Gantz Race; Threat Of Possible Indictment Looms Over Prime Minister; May Meeting European Leaders Ahead Of Friday Deadline; Merkel Doesn't Greet May, Apologizes For Being Late; France: Year-Long Brexit Extension Is Too Long; Nadler: We'll Subpoena For Full, Unredacted Report; Barr: Expected To Release Redacted Report "Within A Week"; Boeing 737 Deliveries Fall By A Third In Q1; UK PM May In Paris For Talks With Macron. Aired: 4-5p ET

Aired April 9, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, hello, and welcome to CNN's special coverage of Israel's elections. I'm Becky Anderson in Jerusalem for you. It is election night here in Israel. Polls closed exactly an hour ago in this race to fill all 120 seats of Israel's parliament known, of course, as the Knesset. At this hour, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political future not clear as his Likud party faces a stiff challenge of the Blue and White party of former Military Chief Benny Gantz.

The vote counting is underway, but we do have exit polls from Israel's channel 12. You can see those here. This one suggests Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be heading for a big defeat however that doesn't tell the whole story. Other exit poll suggest Mr. Netanyahu and Benny Gantz are in a dead heat.

Gil Hoffman is Chief Political Correspondent and Analyst for the Jerusalem Post. He joins me now. And if we know one thing at this stage it is that we have no idea who the Prime Minister of Israel will be going forward.

GIL HOFFMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANALYST, THE JERUSALEM POST: Isn't that the beauty of democracy there, Becky? We are not going to know until the morning. We might not even know a until week and a half from now. The way it works in Israel is that with all due respect to the 6 million voters and it's very symbolically that Jewish stayed for the first time, we had 6 million voters, one man's vote matters most.

He is the President of Israel. We normally don't hear about him, Reuven Rivlin, he has the symbolic role most of the time, but now he has a decisive role. He is the one who will decide who will form the next government whether it'd be Netanyahu, Benny Gantz or whether he will force them to form a government together.

ANDERSON: They have both claimed victory at this stage.

HOFFMAN: They both emphatically claimed victory. They both conclusively claimed victory as if only what they care about matters. Gantz, as if only the largest party matters. Netanyahu, as if only the largest blocs matters.

ANDERSON: Why would they do that at this point?

HOFFMAN: Because they want to frame the election in their way. In the end, they're both in public relations, politics and public relations end up being the same thing in the end.

ANDERSON: There are two clear men here who we know are sort of front and center. Who though are the other characters that we should be watching out for? Who are the kingmakers as it were? Is it clear?

HOFFMAN: The ultra-Orthodox are always the kingmakers in Israel because they can join the government with anyone. Then you've got the socioeconomic party, Kulanu, of the Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon crossed the threshold. Avigdor Lieberman, our former Defense Minister. His party unexpectedly cross the threshold and he can go with either side.

There are a lot of kingmakers. There are so many small parties that's going to be more complicated than ever to form a government. But the people of Israel, if anything, have spoken that they really do want both Netanyahu and Gantz to run the country.

ANDERSON: So what about a government of national unity, a possibility?

HOFFMAN: There is a possibility just because the people wanted it and perhaps because the President would want it, but they hate each other.

ANDERSON: Well, they hate each other. But would that to be the case? What would that mean for Israel? For our viewers outside of this country looking in, what were the significance of a national unity government be?

HOFFMAN: Becky, there could be a rotation of the Prime Minister's office between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. They would have to fight over who goes first, but you could see the end of Netanyahu's political career whether he won or not because of that. He could end up - I don't see him staying if he's not first. And if he is first, then that would be when he leaves.

ANDERSON: How important the Arab citizens of Israel been in this election?

HOFFMAN: Well, it remains to be seen because one of the polls show that both Arab parties have crossed the threshold and two of the party showed that one of the parties did not and we had low turnout in the Arab sector, perhaps upset about the performance of their parties in past elections or perhaps upset because of Jewish nation state law that passed and so there were calls boycott the election that apparently have been somewhat successful among the Arabs. There were also calls to vote more than before and that apparently didn't work.

ANDERSON: Gil, stand by as vote counting move forward. CNN is with the top candidates, Michael Holmes is at Benny Gantz's Blue and White party election center while Oren Liebermann is Mr. Netanyahu's Likud party campaign, both are in Tel Aviv. Oren, let's start with you. What have you got?

[16:05:00] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, for hours this place was quite quiet. A lot of nervous jitters around but now the celebration has begun, especially after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory not only for his Likud party, but also for the right-wing bloc. There was a moment when that first poll came out that look like there was a four-seat difference between and his rival, two more polls came out showing that it was Netanyahu in a neck and neck, but having a big advantage when it comes to forming the all important bloc and getting a 61-seat coalition.

Netanyahu has already said he has begun the conversations with his natural coalition partners, his right-wing coalition partners and he is portraying absolute confidence that he'll be the one putting together a government. You can see behind me here, it is beginning to fill up. They are waiting to hear from Netanyahu and the speech he's expected to give her in a short time. It is filling up fast and the mood is becoming festive fast.

I'm joined here by one of the members of Knesset of Likud, Sharren Haskel. The celebration has begun even though one of the poll shows you're quite a bit behind perhaps.

SHARREN HASKEL, MEMBER OF KNESSET, LIKUD: Yes, well, we can't really trust those polls. Three different polls, each one of them shows completely different results. We're not certain of that three more parties, whether they're going to pass the threshold or not. We're not sure how many mandates they're going to receive, so we don't know really how to shape our coalition yet.

We do know that the Likud receive more mandate than it received in the last election, so there's more confidence in us in the Likud and in the Prime Minister. We do know that also a group of coalition, the right group, is stronger and is bigger as well. So the Prime Minister already sort of locked down a couple of parties as well. He's going to probably finish in the next hour, the other parties too just to make sure that we're the one who are building that coalition that he will be the next Prime Minister of Israel as well, and obviously we're here waiting for his speech too.

LIEBERMANN: With all of the uncertainty you just talked about, how can you be confident that it is Netanyahu who will be the next Prime Minister?

HASKEL: Because we've seen the polls last time as well and we've seen that through the polls we actually managed to passed in one or two mandates. I have very high hopes for two right parties who are sort of just a little bit under the threshold, so Bennett and Shaked parties and also Feiglin's parties which are our natural allies. Obviously, if they don't pass it's going to be problematic but I do have confidence in it.

I know that people went out to vote for them and you know what maybe I'm hopeful, but if we're not the one that's going to lead the next Knesset, it's actually going to take Israel quite a few steps backward on security, on economy, on foreign policy and that makes me really anxious.

LIEBERMANN: Let's go through the parties here that would be your natural coalition partners and who has Netanyahu spoken with at this point. The ultra-Orthodox party's both Shas and United Torah Judaism, he's locked those down already.

HASKEL: Yes. Yes. But also the new right, Bennett and Shaked, Feiglin as I've said before as well --

LIEBERMANN: Both of which may not cross the threshold.

HASKEL: May not, we still don't know. Also, the union of the parties, the Vita Yudi (ph) and the unions there. Also Kahlon which is Kulanu's party as well. So they are the major sort of at first allies in the first calls that we're making.

LIEBERMANN: If two of those parties missed the threshold?

HASKEL: Oh, and I forgot also Lieberman as well.

LIEBERMANN: We have Lieberman and Kahlon committed at this point because that's an important question.

HASKEL: No. Lieberman didn't and Lieberman usually have negotiation. He's usually going overseas and he's got someone to negotiate for him and the last time we weren't able to secure him as well. If he's going to be the one who's going to endanger a right-wing government, he's going to be completely wiped out in the next election as well. People will not trust him again in sort of manipulating the whole system into bring the left-wing government.

LIEBERMANN: I have one more very quick question, there are two big parties here and that's obvious, Blue and White, your rival, as well as Likud. Is there a chance here for a unity government?

HASKEL: So there's always a chance, but the question is whether they're going to come behind us on anything to do on security issues and economy. The fact that Gantz promised the Ministry of Treasury to the head of the unions in Israel who are extremely powerful and manipulating their power as well in Israel, the public doesn't like them. If they're willing to stand behind us on those policies, obviously, there's a fertile ground for us for cooperation on many issues. But if not, I can't see that happening.

LIEBERMANN: Sharren Haskel, thank you for your time. Becky, one thing is very clear here, it will be a long night of vote counting to see where everything lays out and she didn't rule anything out there so it will be very interesting to see how the rest of the night unfolds and how the next few days unfold, but here they're claiming victory.

[16:09:42] ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely, and it could be days if not weeks at this point before we have any sense of a government. Michael Holmes is at Benny Gantz's Blue and White party election center. Michael, as Oren has been speaking so I've been looking at some of party leaders online suggesting only Bibi, they'll on go with Bibi. It's looking increasingly difficult if things are as they stand at present with the sort of the comments we're seeing for Benny Gantz to be able to form a government even if he were asked to do so.

Obviously, at this point, the caveat is we're still counting these votes and have no idea as of yet exactly where these two parties stand.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, exactly, Becky, as you say these exit polls notoriously inaccurate as we keep saying. The interesting thing is Benny Gantz is leading in all the head-to-head exit polling, but the right-wing looking like it will get the majority of the seats when it comes to forming the coalition. Benny Gantz though is claiming victory much the same way that Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming victory.

Let's bring in a newly elected member of the Knesset now Orit Farkash- Hacohen. Thanks for being with us. Now, Benny Gantz is claiming victory. Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming victory. Why do you think you're right?

ORIT FARKASH-HACOHEN, BLUE AND WHILE PARTY MK-ELECT: Because the numbers are showing it that there has been a huge shift in Israel's society today and I think that the people of Israel have spoken its mind very clearly. We haven't seen such a thing for a decade. The people of Israel wants a clean slate after 13 years of ruling of Benjamin Netanyahu and we want leadership of integrity who puts the people of Israel in the center and advocates togetherness and inclusiveness.

And I think that the numbers are very, very surprising for the good and we believe that, we felt that. I think in a sense we are a grassroot that came from the grounds of the society of Israel and we have seen a huge, huge shift today, and I think it's clear.

HOLMES: But when you look at the blocs, it's pointing towards Netanyahu having the numbers to form the coalition. When it comes to Blue and White, some people say it's a tie in one of the exit polls but that's with support of the Arab parties who say they won't go into coalition, but they may support in the Knesset. Why do you think thought that Benny Gantz is right and Benjamin Netanyahu is wrong? The numbers are pointing the other way.

HACOHEN: I believe that the whole bloc presentation situation is artificial, because many of the parties that are so-called supposedly are designated to the right bloc are not really so. Everybody - we're talking to everybody and there is a huge really for a change in many parties in Israel some that are called the right bloc, some that are from the left more bloc, so I do think that --

HOLMES: So you think some of the coalition partners Netanyahu might think he has might go with Gantz?

HACOHEN: Yes, I'm sure.

HOLMES: Yes? HACOHEN: I'm sure. I think that after we speak, the parties are

deliberating and I think that many of the so-called right-wing blocs want a change as well, just like over 1 million people and the majority of the population in Israel spoke their minds tonight.

HOLMES: What about the notion of a unity government, Likud and Blue and White coming together? Benny Gantz has said he would not do that Benjamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister. Can you see a way that it could happen?

HACOHEN: So you answered the question, Benny Gantz and the Blue and White party announced that as long as our Prime Minister has three pending indictments, we will not be able to sit with the Likud in a government. But our hand is open and we are willing do that. The larger the government is, the better it is for the Israel society.

But, I mean, with the current situation as long as there will not be a game changer with regards to the pending indictment, we cannot see directly, I mean, immediately with the Likud party.

HOLMES: It's obviously been a good performance by the Blue and White. Are you surprised it was close given those indictments, that they didn't seem to trouble Likud's supporters?

HACOHEN: I think that what happened in Israel tonight is not less than like a revolution. You have to understand that this is a ruling that was very dominant in Israel society for over a decade that Benjamin Netanyahu was thought to be unbeatable. But the people of Israel voted and came out to the streets and said that we want a clean slate, we want a fresh government. We want to reach for a cleaner politics and we want leadership that will put the people of Israel in the center.

We felt it. We felt it in the ground. We felt it talking to the people with the amazing group of Blue and White. People don't understand, but Blue and White was established, listen to that, six weeks ago. So this is pretty remarkable.

[16:15:11] HOLMES: That is true. Orit Farkash-Hacohen, thank you so much. A newly elected member of the Knesset and she actually makes a really good point too that not all of the parties on the right who are in the sort of right bloc that people are putting in. I mean, now, they could be won over.

What is happening right now is the phones are running hot on the Gantz's side and on the Netanyahu's side. They're calling all of those smaller parties. They are making deals with them. They're saying, "Come with us, we'll give you this. Come with us, we'll give you that." So there's a lot of horse-trading going on right now and there could be some surprises in terms of which parties go with who? You just don't know at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: Michael Holmes at Benny Gantz's camp, Oren is at Benjamin Netanyahu's camp for you. This evening, we'll get back to Oren a little later. Gil Hoffman is Chief Political Correspondent and Analyst for The Jerusalem Post. I nearly lost my T saying that. So as we've been listening to Michael hearing from the Benny Gantz's camp and so we've heard Oren speaking to those at Netanyahu's camp, you've been checking your own sources, what can we say at this point? What's your best guess at this point?

HOFFMAN: The best guess is that Netanyahu is still going to be our Prime Minister, at least, at first because there are so many parties who are saying they won't join a government led by anyone other than him even if his Likud party ended up getting less than Blue and White received. The only way really to prevent Netanyahu from being the Prime Minister at least at first is for the President to put down his foot and say, "The people have spoken. If Blue and White got more seats, then it has to be taken into account and either there has to be a unity government or perhaps some other arrangement that he can come up with.

ANDERSON: When will that happen? When will he ask either candidate to form a government? Give us a kind of a time scale.

HOFFMAN: So in the next couple of days, they have to make the results official. There'll be a lot of math that's being done that I can't possibly do in my head to figure out the exact final results and only then - on Sunday, probably, is when all the party heads are going start coming to the President. He has more time, usually, but this time he has really only a week because of Passover. He's going to get this done before the Passover Seder which is a week and a half from tonight.

ANDERSON: If Benjamin Netanyahu is asked to form a government and he's able to do so, will these results tonight given that - it looks as if he's going to - have been pretty close, will he feel in any way chastised by what the Israeli voter has said tonight?

HOFFMAN: No. Knowing Benjamin Netanyahu, he's very self-confident. He sees two polls that show that the right bloc won and that means that he won. He will not even notice that anyone said anything negative about him. He looks at the positive and he looks at it a lot.

ANDERSON: Is this a Prime Minister moving further to the right?

HOFFMAN: Oh, well, ahead of the election he moved to the right in order to get more votes and rob his satellite parties of votes and Naftali Bennett, his main challenger on the right, might have not even cross the electoral threshold. After the election though he's going to move to the left with Donald Trump's plan.

ANDERSON: We're going to take a short break. It's been a pleasure having you on, Gil. Thank you for that. We are staying on top of the Israeli election results, the latest on the polls and the claims of victory and getting you some other news as well, that's after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:21:14] ANDERSON: Right now the Israeli Prime Minister and his main challenger both claiming victory in Israel's election. Benjamin Netanyahu is saying it is a clear win for his Likud party. Benny Gantz urging Mr. Netanyahu to step aside and let him form the next government saying there is no other option. Polls, viewers, are closed and the ballot counting is ongoing. I'm Becky Anderson. More from us shortly.

First, let's get you some other news with Amara.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Becky, thanks so much. Other headlines we are following for you, the Brexit deadline is this Friday and unless British Prime Minister Theresa May can convince EU leaders to give her another delay. They'll be discussing that Wednesday.

Ahead of that EU summit, Mrs. May is trying to get Germany's Angela Merkel on her since time clearly isn't. She arrived early in Berlin, meaning, well, no one was there to welcome her. After walking the red carpet alone, Mrs. May came back out with Mrs. Merkel to stage the handshake they were supposed to have earlier. There you go.

But it's France that can make or break Mrs. May's request, saying that it's not opposed to another Brexit extension if there are guarantees.

The Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler is promising a subpoena for the full and unredacted verse of Robert Mueller's full report. This after U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the public will see a redacted form of the report within a week in his first testimony to Congress since the probe was completed. While Barr set a time frame for the release of the edited version, he says he has no plan to allow anyone in Congress to see the full report and Barr explained his four-page letter released last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: My March 24th letter was meant to state the bottom line conclusions of the report, not summarize the report and I tried to use as much of the Special Counsel's own language as I could. But they were just stating the bottom line conclusions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: The U.S. Attorney General also declined to answer questions about whether the White House has seen or been briefed on the Mueller report. Our Sara Murray has more now from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOSE SERRANO (D-NY): And of course, Mr. Attorney General, we cannot hold this hearing without mentioning the elephant in the room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): And address it, they did. Attorney General William Barr telling lawmakers today he will soon be ready to release Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: So I think that from my standpoint, within a week, I'll be in a position to release the report to the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): But not the complete version Democrats are clambering for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I don't intend at this stage to send the full unredacted report to the Committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): Barr's resistance setting off a pointed exchange over 6(e). The rule governing the release of Grand Jury material. That material is meant to be kept secret, except in certain circumstances. Barr says this isn't one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I'll have to say that until someone chose me a provision in 6(e) that permits its release, Congress doesn't get 6(e). And the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): Barr's comments setting up a fight between Congress and the Trump administration over the fate of the Mueller Report. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee already authorized a subpoena for the full report and its underlying evidence. So far, Democrats haven't moved forward with it, but that could soon change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I presume we're going get the redacted report within a week. When we do so, if we don't get everything, we will issue the subpoena and go to court.

[16:25:15] MURRAY(voice-over): Barr also under fire today for how he crafted his summary of Mueller's conclusions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): All we have is your four-page summary which seems to cherry-pick from the report to draw the most favorable conclusion possible for the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): Barr defended the substance of his letter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARR: I felt that I should state the bottom line conclusions and I

tried to use Special Counsel Mueller's own language in doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): Though only about a hundred words in the four- page letter for Mueller's. Barr added that Mueller declined to weigh in on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: Mr. Mueller's team did not play a role in drafting that document, although we offered him the opportunity to review it before we sent it out and he declined that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): Barr also acknowledged the White House Counsel was given a heads up about the initial summary sent to Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: We advised the White House Counsel's office that the letters were being sent, but they were not allowed or even asked to make any changes to the letters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY(voice-over): But he refused to say whether the White House has seen the full report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I've said what I'm going say about the report today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALKER: Sara Murray there. New numbers from Boeing showed deliveries of its best selling plane, the 737 fell by a third in the first three months of 2019. Worse than that, customers placed orders for only 10 737s compared to 112 in the first quarter of 2018. In March, Boeing got no orders at all for the plane.

You're watching CNN'S live coverage of Israel's national election and exit polls indicate the race to the side who will run the country is extremely close right now, more polls, more results and more analysis is straight ahead. I'm Amara walker. This is CNN, the world's news leader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:29:41] ANDERSON: Well, the vote counting is underway and we are awaiting the first official results from Israel's hotly contested national election. Welcome back to Jerusalem. Exit polls indicate a very tight race between incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. But it's all about the seats in Israel's legislature, the Knesset, right now those polls indicate Mr. Netanyahu is in the best position to pick up enough seats to form a coalition and become Israel's longest serving Prime Minister.

Israel is ancient but as they say, the night is young. Benny Gantz is the man making this a two-horse race. His Blue and White party is centrist. He is not anti-establishment, he is anti-Netanyahu. Part of his appeal to voters might be that he is new to politics. As a military general he led Israel through two wars in Gaza. He has one message for Mr. Netanyahu, "Thanks for the last 10 years. We'll take it from here."

As the vote counting moves forward, CNN is the with the top candidates. Michael Holmes is at Benny Gantz's Blue and White election center while Oren Liebermann is with Mr. Netanyahu's Likud party campaign, both in Tel Aviv. We're going to start off, as I understand it, let's start off with Michael Holmes, and we'll get to you, Oren, shortly. Michael, this is where the real politics begins.

HOLMES: You could not have put that better. The phones will be running hot right now. Deals being made. Promises made. I've got Yoaz Hendel who's joining me now. A newly elected member of the Knesset. Congratulation, first of all.

YOAZ HENDEL, BLUE AND WHITE MK: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: What happens now because the suggestion is that Netanyahu has the part to do a coalition, what is Blue and White going to do about that? Can you win people over?

HENDEL: So first of all, this is a new phenomena which you can see more than 1 million point to Israel has said loud and clear that they vote for a leadership, a leadership that put people before itself. And this is the - as I've said, this is a new movement in Israel and this is the most important story today.

Now, regarding politics, we will do whatever we need to do in order to create a coalition and different parties in the right-wing that are willing to create a new coalitions, our parties in the left, and we will try to do to create a united government because this is the most important thing, to heal the Israeli society, to heal it from, I would say, self-hate, to heal it from no politics. And for the first time I think that we a real opportunity to see something that unite people from both sides.

HOLMES: So when you say win parties from the right, that's the key, isn't it, because Benjamin Netanyahu think he's got all of the parties on the right and that will add up to a majority in the Knesset. The key for Benny Gantz, and you and others is to tell some of those parties, "No, you're better with us."

HENDEL: First of all you need to understand, I'm coming from the right. My political views belong to the conservative part of Israel. But as I see it, corruption is not part of right and left. And to be in leadership, it's not the issue of right and left. This is why I think a lot of parties will identify themselves with us and the day after.

Another thing that you will need to put into this field is that in the 9th of July, Netanyahu is going to face accusations in the court. He will not be able to be Prime Minister for a long time and the small parties understand it, so they want stability in a long coalition for the next convention, for the next four years, they need to choose maybe to create a coalition with us and I think that we have seen in open.

We don't know yet the numbers completely and we probably will be smarter in the morning, in two days, and I think that everything is open. The only thing that is not open is there is, as I've said, a new movement in Israel. A new movement of more than 1.2 million people that said loud and clear they want someone, a leader that will unite them and this is what we offer to the Israeli society.

HOLMES: And by that you mean the head-to-head in terms of Benny Gantz beating out Netanyahu in most of these exit polls head-to-head. Do you see a path forward for a unity government, Likud and Blue and White coming together with or without Netanyahu?

HENDEL: I think that this could be the best thing for Israel to unite the government, but without netanyahu. I don't think that Netanyahu can survive for the next years. I think as I've said he has legal issues, it's not going to disappear and this is part of the issue and part of the problem and part of the political game.

[16:34:54] HOLMES: Are you surprised those allegations didn't have more of an impact electorally?

HENDEL: Yes, I am. I thought that this is the most important thing as I've said, I think that the leaders in Israel should be a role model and it doesn't matter what you have in the states, and as Israeli, I think that if someone send the troops and soldiers to the army field and you ask them to become a role model to others, I think that the leader in Israel must be a role model for all Israelis and this is not what we saw in the past. And I think that now it's a new opportunity to create a new leadership in Israel to show something else.

HOLMES: What is happening behind the scenes right now?

HENDEL: Right now both sides are trying to create a coalition to call different parties and I think we will have the success. I'm not sure, but this is part of the game.

HOLMES: Yoaz Hendel, thank you so much.

HENDEL: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: I appreciate you coming on. Newly elected member on the Knesset with the Blue and White party on the right of that party and a man who probably is going to be making some calls himself to try to win over some of those right-wing parties that Benjamin Netanyahu may think he has in his pocket. He might will not going forward. There's a lot of horse-trading going on, Becky, behind the scenes.

And also crucially too, we do not yet know how many and which parties may not have met that threshold, the 3.25 percent of the vote needed to get into the Knesset. That could play a role too and we'll learn about that in the hours ahead, Becky.

ANDERSON: Michael is at Benny Gantz's headquarter, his campaign. Thank you, Michael. It's been dominated, of course, by Benjamin Netanyahu. Many say this has been a referendum on the man himself. So let's get to him after 10 straight years in power, the Prime Minister is fighting for his political survival. He's been trying to court the support of the right, especially with the help of his friend Donald Trump, even as he faces likely indictment on corruption allegations. Mr. Netanyahu argues that Israel has never been in better shape.

Well, let's get to his Likud party election center in Tel Aviv. And just as the opposition's - members will be hitting those phones so there will be phone bashing going on behind the scenes where you are, Oren.

LIEBERMANN: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already made a number of those phone calls. He says to the parties, he'll have his natural partners as he calls them in the right-wing coalition and has already secured their support moving forward. He says that is his path to victory claiming victory for not only his Likud party who are here at Likud headquarters, of course, but also for the right-wing bloc.

And what was a quiet and perhaps even a nervous Likud headquarters earlier in the evening with some jitters about what the results might be has turned into the beginning of a celebration and you can probably hear the music and see all of the people here behind me as it fills up quickly as they wait for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come here and to claim victory.

I'm joined here by his spokesperson, Eli Hazan. We've seen three different election polls at this point, exit polls at this point, they have very different results, but you're claiming victory. How confident are you right now?

ELI HAZAN, LIKUD FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESMAN: I'll tell you what, you need to wait to the votes of the soldiers, the prisoners and the diplomats. Usually after the votes of the soldiers, diplomats and prisoners, the right-wing gets more. We assume that either Bennett or Feiglin will make the threshold and therefore this is a victory for Netanyahu.

LIEBERMANN: Are you in trouble if neither of them cross the threshold though?

HAZAN: It creates a challenge, but we already been there. Don't forget before the election, it was claimed that Netanyahu already lost and you could see the differences. Moreover if you look at the polls only a few hours ago, you would see it's been said that Netanyahu will get no more than 36. We ended up with approximately 36 seats. So you could see that this is completely different.

LIEBERMANN: One of the key questions, of course, is the coalition partners, he has finished some of those calls so let's once again here go through the list here. I talked to Sharren Haskel a short time ago. He's already secured the support of both of the ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism, and Shas and the union of right-wing parties. Has he secured other support from parties across the threshold?

HAZAN: No, but he's going work about it. This is his challenge and usually Netanyahu knows how to do it. Besides there are more alternatives, wait and see.

LIEBERMANN: And that's one of the key questions in terms of one of these other alternatives. Whatever the numbers turn out to be, it looks like Likud plus the Blue and White party will have well over 60 seats, perhaps even over 70 seats which begs the question of why not go for a unity government? What are the odds do you see that as a possibility?

HAZAN: Because we are different than the Blue and White, the basic assumptions, the basic values. Let me give an example. Number five, in Blue and White is a socialist. He's the head of the unions in Israel. We have a problem with the cost of living and he cannot solve them and we have differences. And Therefore I assume that not all Blue and White, maybe some of them will join Netanyahu, but not all of them for sure.

[16:40:07] LIEBERMANN: Do you think you might see a situation where Blue and White fractures and Netanyahu pulls in some of that support?

HAZAN: Of course. That was the whole story of Blue and White if they not going to win in the election, they are going break one with each other.

LIEBERMANN: How long until Netanyahu speaks here and what do we expect him to say?

HAZAN: It's going to be very soon. He will speak about the victory of the right-wing, his victory, again, in the fifth time and the victory against what we call deep state. He will not say deep state, but for us this is a victory against the leftist, against the media and we are very glad about Israeli democracy.

LIEBERMANN: Eli Hazan, a Spokesperson for the Likud, thank you very much.

HAZAN: Thank you.

LIEBERMANN: We'll wait to see those results as they come in. Of course, everybody here will be counting those results to find out not only where do the two biggest parties end up, but who is it across the electoral threshold to make it into the Knesset and where do they fit into this picture over the next couple of days and certainly the next of hours, Becky. ANDERSON: We appreciate it, Oren. Thank you. With me now Professor

Gideon Rahat who works at the Hebrew University here in Jerusalem. He heads up the political reform program at the Israel Democracy Institute. Fascinating. The commentator there, the Likud party member speaking to Oren said the following, the soldiers, the prisoners and the diplomats are what the Prime Minister's party are waiting for. They reckon those will put them over the line. Do you buy that?

GIDEON RAHAT, PROFESSOR, HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM: Well, it's probable. But once again, it's not only the votes, it's the thresholds, how many parties will pass the threshold. One party passing the threshold might mean that another party will fall below the threshold. This is the most probably important game, but nevertheless we see that coalition negotiations already started, probably they started before the elections but now they are already trying to grab the small parties to join them, the two front runners.

ANDERSON: If the exit polls are correct, they have Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, will they combine sort of 70 to 73 seats? Am I right in saying that that would be the largest share of seats held by these two main parties in years, if ever?

RAHAT: You're absolutely right. Since 1992, we didn't have such a number and this is probably an opportunity that might be used to create unity government between the two large parties. It's a huge change. Israel adopted in '96 the direct direction for the Prime Minister to throw off the whole party system now we seem to be back to two large parties.

ANDERSON: How would that work given that Benny Gantz's wrote an anti- Netanyahu sort of mandate through this election? We know it was a referendum in the end about Benjamin Netanyahu and forgive me viewers if I'm repeating myself, but it wasn't about policies, it was about personalities. How will they work together, should that be the case?

RAHAT: Well, this is politics and also we have to remember this is an election. There might be also pressures from outside to create this coalition from United States, from American Jews. So something might - there would be pressures to create this. I think Netanyahu would prefer his right-wing coalition, because they will help him also with his personal issues. But this is also a possibility. Everything is possible with this coalition politics.

ANDERSON: Who is Benny Gantz?

RAHAT: Well, he's the Chief of Staff, former Chief of Staff of Israel. He didn't say much. He didn't have to say much because once again his attempt was to be kind of the person for all versus the populism versus Netanyahu who tries to divide - he tried to show himself as the person who unite. So he didn't say much. He tried to be very mainstream and his attempt was to show that he can be a leader.

ANDERSON: He's a political virgin though, forgive the term. Can he lead this country going forward? RAHAT: Well, I would bet as a university professor that knows that

there's politics in the university, there's probably politics in the military. I mean, he's not the - he did politics in a different level in different ways, but I don't think in these terms. Also, he has leadership, he has experience, but you're absolutely right that politics is something else. Politics mainly is about building coalitions and in the next few days we'll see how good he is.

[16:45:00] ANDERSON: Politics is something else rather understatement when it comes to Israeli politics. Thank you for the time being. It is pretty chilly here. My guests are stronger characters than I am. You can see me wrapped up in Jerusalem but the race to the next Prime Minister heating up as suspense keeps building and so does our coverage of this neck and neck race, and the horse-trading to follow. We will be back after this.

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[16:48:12] ANDERSON: Benjamin Netanyahu's party headquarters in Tel Aviv as we await the official results from Israel's hotly contested nationwide election. But his supporters are already celebrating as exit polls suggest the Prime Minister is in the prime position to form Israel's next government. Let's bring in Dahlia Scheindlin who is a public opinion expert and a political and strategic consultant.

Forgive me if I've mangled your name somewhat. It is getting slightly late.

DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN, PUBLIC OPINION EXPERT: That's fine.

ANDERSON: Your perspective as we look at these exit polls to begin with.

SCHEINDLIN: I think the exit polls, first of all, we have to, of course, wait until the real counts. From 2015, we know that the final count can be quite different from the exit polls. We can't forget that last time we had 27 and 27 for the two big parties, it ended up at 30 for the Likud and 24 for the challengers at the time.

So we do have to wait and see, but it is striking to me how both of the big parties got well above the final opinion polling they were getting in the weeks before the election, which means to my mind that anybody who's undecided did not break for some of the smaller parties or the protest votes, the outsiders, they went to the big parties.

ANDERSON: What were they telling you when you spoke to people, likely voters, what do people tell you? What were they voting on?

SCHEINDLIN: I think that if we look at this in terms of the two blocs, people on the right - what's amazing is that - and you ask them the question about the direction the country is going in. It's a standard polling question. People on the right, a majority of them, clear majority say the country is going well, both in quantitative surveys and in qualitative surveys and they point to things like the macroeconomic situation, Israel's excellent foreign relations and their perception led by Netanyahu and they're talking about how close he is with Trump and Putin and, bows and arrow, and on the center and left.

Anybody who is against Netanyahu, it's not just that they don't like Netanyahu, they think the country is going in the wrong direction. And when they say wrong direction, they think that Israel should be moving ahead with relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending the sort of creeping annexation going on in the West Bank. They are worried very much about the erosion of certainly democratic norms and the encroachment of religion into public life in Israel and that really characterizes the two blocs.

[16:50:30] ANDERSON: It was fascinating when I've been speaking to people ahead of this vote, there were many people who told me that it's actually quite difficult to put a piece of paper between the policies of Netanyahu and the policies of Benny Gantz. But what you've just told me about the way the people said they would vote clearly identifies two quite different positions, were Benny Gantz to be asked to form a government and was able to do so, those who have voted for him will be expecting something quite different from Netanyahu. Will they get that?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, that's an excellent question and I completely agree with the direction, because what we are seeing is due to the political strategy that the Gantz campaign probably correctly calculated, they needed to peel off voters from the moderate right, from center right, to vote for the center or left-wing bloc in order to be able to form a government. Do that they had to sound a lot like Likud and don't forget they have three very senior people in their party who come from Netanyahu's government in the past. His previous defense minister, his previous cabinet secretary and his previous communications adviser.

And so they do look a lot like Likud, but I completely agree that if you poll on all the major issues that I just discussed, you'll see that the kind of people who are supporting Blue and White genuinely want to change and deeply want to change on those issues. In other words, if Gantz was able to win the election and form a government, they absolutely will expect a change. They might not get it if that government has to include either right-wing parties or if it becomes a national unity government which is increasingly what we're starting to hear from even certain members of Blue and White.

ANDERSON: Isn't that fascinating? All right, we are going to take a very short break. Your analysis is incredibly important to us. Thank you so much for joining us.

SCHEINDLIN: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Still waiting for this election returns and our coverage of the Israeli election is far from over. I'm Becky Anderson in Jerusalem. More news just ahead, please stay with us.

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[16:55:15] ANDERSON: Benjamin Netanyahu's party headquarters in Tel Aviv as we await the official results, actually, you're looking at me, from Israel's hotly contested nationwide election. Let's see if we can get you some pictures from his party headquarter. There you go. His supporters are already celebrating. His exit poll suggests the Prime Minister is in the prime position to form Israel's next government.

But these are just exit polls at present, quite frankly the only thing we know at this point is we do not know who will be Prime Minister in Israel going forward. Stay with us for a lot more. I want to get you though some other news, Amara Walker, standing by for. Amara.

WALKER: All right, Becky, thank you very much. Well, Brexit is the other big story we are following. It is set for Friday without a deal unless British Prime Minister Theresa May can convince EU leaders to give her another extension. They'll be meeting on Wednesday to sort it all out.

Theresa May is in Europe right now, trying to get more time. And Bianca Nobilo is in London with an update. So Bianca, it seems like an extension is all but certain at this point and the main question is how long of an extension Theresa May will get.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the notion of an extension wouldn't be granted. It's almost unthinkable at this point something would have to go dismally array over the next 24 hours for U.K. to be denied that. But as you mentioned it's this issue of how long that extension will be and what strings will be attached.

So as it sounds, Theresa May had asked the EU for another extension until the 30th of June. She said in that time she would attempt to pass her deal, and that if she pass her deal Britain wouldn't put people forward for the European elections. But she acknowledged that in order to abide by the EU's rules, they would have to field candidates in the European Parliamentary elections.

Now, that's something which really sat bad with the Prime Minister and many Brexiteers in Britain because they feel that three years on from voting to leave the European Union in the initial referendum, Britain should not be electing representatives to sit in the European Parliament, so that's where the Prime Minister is beginning these talks.

The EU on the other hand, Donald Tusk, in particular, the Council President are disinclined to grant something that would end on the 13th of June. The reason being they think that there's not a real chance for Prime Minister will be able to agree a compromise deal by that date, so that could lead to a series of more rolling extensions and potential cliff edges which don't provide the necessary certainty to the EU, to the British government or to businesses.

So now all of the questions are focused on how long the extension will be, likely somewhere between six months and a year and whether or not it could be truncated if Britain did indeed pass the deal.

WALKER: All right, Bianca Nobilo, I appreciate it very much, live for us there in London. And our coverage of the Israeli election is far from over. We will have much more on that and, of course, other news just ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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