SWITZERLAND, MARCH 03 – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Israel’s general election, with early results putting him ahead of main rival Benny Gantz.
Exit polls suggest his right-wing bloc is on course to win 59 seats to become the biggest group but still short of a majority by two seats.
Nevertheless, Mr Netanyahu declared the outcome “the biggest win of my life”.
Monday’s election was Israel’s third in less than a year, after neither leader was able to form a government.
Mr Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. He is seeking a record fifth term, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009.
The election took place two weeks before the Mr Netanyahu is due in court to face corruption charges, which he denies.
Initial projections after voting ended forecast 60 seats for the right-wing bloc, but this was later revised down to 59.
The opposition centre and centre-left parties are on course to win 54-55 seats, according to the exit polls.
Israel, he added, “needs unity, it needs conciliation, it yearns for a leadership that unites, and that is something that we will continue to offer the Israeli public”.
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who was in the position of kingmaker after the last two elections, said it would keep its campaign promise not to join a coalition with religious parties.
“We are party with an orderly worldview, with principles,” he said.
In the coming days, President Reuven Rivlin will officially task the leader of the party with the best chance to form a government.