Editor’s note: As we went to press on Tuesday evening, Israel had just concluded its fourth election day in two years. This article reflects the reported election results as of 6 p.m. ET. Further, as of 8 p.m. Israel time, voter turnout was reportedly at 51.5%, 4.8% lower than last year and the lowest since 2009.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to form a government for the seventh time in his three-decade political career, according to exit polls on the three television networks Tuesday night.
All three polls indicated that his bloc of Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Zionist Party received enough support together with the Yamina Party of Naftali Bennett, who said during the campaign that he was ready to join a coalition with either political bloc.
The Likud won 31 seats on Channel 12 and 32 on Channel 13. Shas won nine on Channel 12 and eight on Channel 13; UTJ won five on Channel 12 and seven on Channel 13; the Religious Zionist Party won seven on Channel 12 and Channel 13; and Yamina won eight on Channel 12 and seven on Channel 13.
Sources in Likud said Netanyahu would try to form a government as soon as possible. Bennett’s associates said they were “not in
Netanyahu’s pocket” and joining his government was not a foregone conclusion.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid led his party to an impressive showing with 18 seats according to Channel 12 and 16 according to Channel 13, but his anti-Netanyahu bloc failed to win a majority.
Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party won six seats according to Channel 12 and five according to Channel 13; Yisrael Beytenu won six according to Channel 12 and eight according to Channel 13; Blue and White won seven according to Channel 12 and eight according to Channel 13; Labor won seven according to both channels; and Meretz won six according to Channel 12 and seven according to Channel 13.
After struggling throughout the campaign, Meretz easily crossed the 3.25% electoral threshold, according to the exit polls. But the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party did not cross, according to the polls. The Joint List won eight to nine seats, they found.
The exit polls came following a tense day of infighting with both political camps. Yamina fought for seats with the Religious Zionist Party.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz accused Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid of sending out false statements about Blue and White and other satellite parties. In a message sent by Yesh Atid, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was quoted as saying that he was sure he already had six seats secured.
Blue and White responded that Lapid was disseminating fake news, saying that “it does not matter if Lapid ends up with 20 or 22 mandates, but it does matter if Blue and White does not cross the electoral threshold and will not be there to stop Bibi from running the country by himself.”
Gantz followed up by personally addressing the hit, saying “It’s bull****. Every vote is important. It is critical to vote for Blue and White, so that we can pass the electoral threshold.
What they are doing [spreading fake news] is absolutely irresponsible. To avoid this, go out and vote for Blue and White.”
Labor leader Merav Michaeli backed up Lapid, saying that “the smallest parties are no longer in danger, and therefore the time has come for voters to follow their hearts and cast ballots for who they believe in.”
Sarah Ben-Nun and Eve Young contributed to this report.