As voting stations in Israel close, exit polls show the parties of Netanyahu and Gantz nearly neck and neck, while newer upstart parties appear to have missed the threshold to enter the Knesset.
By World Israel News Staff
As the polls officially closed on Tuesday evening, Israel media outlets predicted a tight finish for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and his primary challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction.
Netanyahu claimed victory, tweeting, “The right-wing bloc led by the Likud won a clear victory. I thank the citizens of Israel for their trust. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partners tonight.”
Blue and White also declared victory, posting, “We won! The Israeli public has had its say!”
According to Israel’s Kan news’ exit poll, Likud will take 36 seats, while Blue and White will end up with 37 seats.
Meanwhile, Channel 13‘s poll showed Likud capturing 36 seats, and Blue and White also garnering 36 seats.
Finally, Channel 12’s poll showed Gantz’s Blue and White taking 37 seats, and Netanyahu’s Likud getting only 33 seats.
One of the biggest stories of the evening was the predicted failure of two new parties, the New Right, headed by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party, to meet the minimum threshold of votes needed to enter the Knesset. If the final tally proves that exit polls were correct, this means the New Right and Zehut will be left out of the next government, regardless of who is tasked with forming the government or who is named prime minister.
Notwithstanding poll numbers, Bennett expressed hope his party would make it into the Knesset after IDF soldiers’ votes are tallied.
“We have always taken care of the soldiers and now they will take care of us,” Bennett commented, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“The New Right will pass, and it will pass very nicely, we just need to be patient,” Bennett said. “We believe in our path and we will succeed,” he added.
Feiglin’s party, Zehut, had been a juggernaut during the campaign, with its leader even being dubbed a potential “kingmaker.” Pre-election polls gave the libertarian, pro-cannabis party a possible five seats in the Knesset.
“Nobody knows this evening whether Zehut is in or out, and it’s possible that even tomorrow we won’t know,” said Feiglin after voting stations closed on Tuesday, the Post reported. “I request that, despite all the confusion, keep the faith and don’t give up on the counting of each and every ballot slip until the very end.”
As of Tuesday evening, votes were still being counted and final results had not been announced.