Netanyahu addresses his Likud base in Tel Aviv, who are cheering wildly and whistling. “You are terrific, thank you,” says Netanyahu, over applause. “Remember, 23 years ago, it was the first time that Sara and I stood here. And here we have returned here, because of you and for you,” he says. He thanks the Likud ministers and Knesset members. “I am very moved on this night. This is a night of an incredible, incredible victory.” He says it is a “fantastic achievement, an enormous achievement, which is almost unfathomable.” Netanyahu applauds his supporters for securing his win in the face of a “biased media.” He calls the Likud outcome “almost unprecedented,” saying, “When did we receive so many seats? I don’t even remember.”
Netanyahu arrives at the Tel Aviv hall where Likud party activists and lawmakers have been waiting. He is welcomed with applause and fireworks and is set to make a speech.
Channel 12 and Channel 13 update their exit polls as the official ballots are counted. Both networks’ revised samples now indicate Netanyahu’s Likud will win 35 seats, compared to Blue and White’s 34, and can muster a coalition majority with ultra-Orthodox and right-wing parties. The Channel 12 survey previously predicted 37 seats for Blue and White and 33 for Likud; Channel 13 had the two parties tied at 36. Both exit polls now indicate that Shas would be the third-largest party with eight seats, followed by United Torah Judaism with 7. According to the TV stations, the New Right, Zehut and Gesher will fall under the electoral threshold. In its breakdown of the political blocs, Channel 12 gives 63 of the 120 Knesset seats to the right, compared to 57 for the center-left, giving Netanyahu a clear path to forming a government. According to Channel 13, the right-wing bloc would receive 65 seats, compared to 55 for the center-left.
Netanyahu is on his way to Tel Aviv for a triumphant speech to Likud supporters, in which he is expected to again declare victory and may announce a prospective coalition line-up.
The pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper reports that Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu may ask Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon to merge his
center-right party with the Likud, making it the largest party and the
best-poised to form a government.
Kahlon is a former Likud lawmaker. The report comes as exit polls are
split on which party is the biggest, with Channel 12 and Kan handing the
title to Blue and White, and Channel 13 giving Likud a one-seat edge.
The official results are being counted.