Saturday, July 2, 2022

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Israel PM Netanyahu claims victory in uncertain poll

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory following Israel’s fourth election in less than two years even if he may again struggle to form a governing majority.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier, had hoped that Tuesday’s vote would finally allow him to unite a right-wing coalition behind him, after three inconclusive elections since 2019.

He campaigned on a world-leading coronavirus vaccination effort that has already inoculated roughly half of Israel’s roughly nine million people, a pace envied by much of the world.

Projections based on exit polls from Israel’s three leading broadcasters, which could change, all show Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud winning the most seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.

If the projections reflect the final results expected later this week, Likud could win 30 or 31 seats.

Adding Likud’s hawkish, religious allies, the pro-Netanyahu camp could control more than 50 seats.

But his only path to a viable right-wing coalition appears to rest on a deal with his estranged former protege Naftali Bennett, who has not ruled out joining a bloc opposed to the premier.

Netanyahu described Tuesday’s projected results as a “huge win for the right” and his Likud party.

“I will reach out to all elected officials who share our principles. I will not exclude anyone,” he told supporters.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, a former television anchor whose centrist Yesh Atid party looked set to place a second behind Likud, claimed the anti-Netanyahu bloc had a path to a majority.

“At the moment, Netanyahu doesn’t have 61 seats,” he told supporters in Tel Aviv.

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