Israel’s Netanyahu set for stunning comeback in Tuesday’s poll

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on course for victory in Tuesday’s elections, according to exit polls.

The polls, which forecast the outcome before official results, give his right-wing bloc a slim majority of seats over his opponents.

Such a result would mark a dramatic comeback for Mr Netanyahu, toppled last year after 12 straight years in power.

“We are close to a big victory,” he told his supporters in Jerusalem.

The election was widely seen as a vote for or against Mr Netanyahu’s return.

Official results, which could still produce a different outcome, are expected in the coming hours.

His main rival, current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, said “nothing” was yet decided.

But as the polls were announced at 22:00 (20:00 GMT), upbeat music burst from loud speakers at the central venue of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party in Jerusalem.

Israel TV exit polls suggest Mr Netanyahu’s bloc will command 61 or 62 seats in the 120-seat knesset (parliament).

“It looks like we can be optimistic and have some hope we are about to get a stable coalition with Bibi [Mr Netanyahu] as the prime minister,” said 34-year-old Likud supporter David Adler, from Jerusalem.

“But as it’s been in the past three years, nothing is sure until the coalition is set up,” he cautioned.

If the polls are confirmed, it will stave off the prospect of a sixth election in just four years after analysts predicted deadlock.

It would mark a remarkable turnaround for Mr Netanyahu, whose political future was widely written off after Mr Lapid formed an unlikely alliance of ideologically diverse parties to take power in June 2021.

At the time, Mr Netanyahu vowed to bring it down as quickly as possible. He engineered its collapse after just 12 months.

BBC

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