Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory early on Wednesday after election results showed his party, Likud, won 35 seats, the same as the Blue and White alliance of Benny Gantz. But the right-wing bloc led by Likud is likely to gain a majority of seats in the 120-seat Knesset, The Times of Israel reported.
Netanyahu said that Likud’s victory was “almost unprecedented”. “When did we receive so many seats?” he asked. “I don’t even remember.” The prime minister claimed that under his leadership, Israel was strong, prosperous and “a good place to live”.
Netanyahu said he is in touch with other right-wing parties, who have publicly declared that they will back him to form the next government. “It will be a right-wing government,” he said. “But I intend to be the prime minister of all of Israel, right and left, Jews and non-Jews alike.”
Most ballots had been counted by early morning on Wednesday, but Netanyahu counselled his supporters to be patient. “A long night, maybe a long day, is still ahead of us and we will wait for the final results,” he said.
Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have secured eight seats each, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties five, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party four, Haaretz reported. On the other hand, the left-leaning Labor Party and the Hadash-Ta’al have won six seats each, Meretz and United Arab List-Balad four each.
Likud had won 38 seats in the 2003 elections under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The present tally of 35 seats is the party’s highest since that time.
Netanyahu, who faces charges of corruption, had promised to annex the West Bank if he is reelected. On March 1, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recommended the prime minister be indicted on beach of trust and bribery charges in three separate cases.