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.