Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led coalition is expected to emerge as winners in Tuesday's elections, according to exit polls published by the country's three main television channels.
If Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc wins a 62-seat majority in the Knesset, he will be able to form the next government.
While Bibi’s – as Netanyahu is often called -- own Likud party has not performed as well as expected, a big jump in support for his new far-right allies, the Religious Zionists could be a deciding factor in these polls.
A poor showing for two pro-Arab rights parties and the left wing Meretz party, could be just what Netanyahu’s bloc was aiming for in his quest to spring back to power in Israel.
While three top exit polls projected Netanyahu's bloc getting 62 seats, there is a note of caution here because exit polls appear similar to the results in the March 2021 elections. Final results last year gave Netanyahu’s bloc 59 seats.
In a speech to his supporters, Netanyahu said he intended to form "a national government" that would address the needs of all Israelis. "We have won a huge vote of confidence from the people of Israel,” he said to a cheering audience.
"The people want a different way. They want security," Netanyahu said, "they want power, not weakness ... they want diplomatic wisdom, but with firmness."
More than 70% of votes have been counted and all leads and results put Netanyahu's conservative party and his religious and far-right allies inching towards a majority in parliament.
Nothing is over
Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, whose short-lived ruling coalition appears to be trailing, tried to assuage his supporters on Wednesday. "Nothing is over," Lapid said in a speech.
The biggest take-away from these polls is Netanyahu’s remarkable comeback and the rise of his bloc, mainly the Religious Zionist party, which was projected to win up to 15 seats based on early exit polls. It is now set to be the third-largest party in the parliament. Itamar Ben-Gvir's Religious Zionist may end up just after Netanyahu’s Likud and Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.
Voter turnout this year was 71.3%. This is the highest since 2015, according to the country's central elections committee.
Israel watchers are not ruling out the Arab nationalist party – Balad, which can prove to be a decision maker. It is just below the electoral threshold but if it crosses the same, the party may prevent Netanyahu from securing a majority.
A party that gets at least 3.25% of vote gets a certain number of seats in Israeli parliament, based on the percentage of the total number of votes it won. This threshold is intended to keep smallish parties out of the Knesset, to help build governing coalitions.