Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in Israel’s general election Monday, with exit polls putting the indicted premier in a strong position to form the next government.
The election, Israel’s third in less than a year, was called after inconclusive votes in April and September plunged the Jewish state into political stalemate.
Exit polls by three Israeli television networks, released after polls closed, gave Likud between 36 and 37 seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament against Blue and White’s estimated 32 or 33.
Those projections mark a major improvement on Likud’s performance in Israel’s last vote in September.
Netanyahu tweeted “thank you” after the polls, followed shortly by “a huge victory for Israel.”
ניצחון ענק למען ישראל ???????? pic.twitter.com/HtRgwnaB2M
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 2, 2020
The estimates give Likud and its right-wing allies, including ultra-orthodox parties, 60 seats – one short of a majority.
In a statement, Likud said Netanyahu had spoken with all the heads of right-wing parties and “agreed to form a strong national government for Israel as soon as possible.”
Netanyahu is due to appear in court later this month on a series of corruption charges.
Blue and White along with its center-left allies as well as the mainly Arab Joint List were projected to win between 52 and 54 seats.
The nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which was in the position of kingmaker following inconclusive polls in April and September, was forecast to win between 6 and 8 seats.
Win for ‘Apartheid’
A top Palestinian official said Monday that the exit polls showed that “annexation” had won.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the exit polls by Israeli media showed that “settlement, annexation, and apartheid have won the Israeli elections.”
“Netanyahu’s campaign was about the continuation of the occupation and conflict,” Erekat added on Twitter, saying the result would “force the people of the region to live by the sword: continuation of violence, extremism, and chaos.”
Netanyahu had pledged to annex the Jordan Valley, a large part of the occupied West Bank, if he won and formed the next government.
Palestinians see the territory as a vital part of their planned future state and have said such annexation would mean an end to the notion of peace on the basis of the two-state solution.