Israel election: Netanyahu claims victory after exit polls show a narrow lead

Israel election: Netanyahu claims victory after exit polls show a narrow lead

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Israel’s general election, with early results putting him ahead of main rival Benny Gantz.

With almost a quarter of votes counted, Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has secured 28.73%, the Central Election Committee (CEC) says.

Mr Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance is trailing with 23.26%.

However, exit polls suggest Likud and its right-wing allies might fall just short of a majority in parliament.

The Joint List – a bloc of Arab parties – is currently in third place, with 12.36%.

Monday’s election was Israel’s third in less than a year. Neither of the two main party leaders was able to command a majority in the 120-seat parliament following the last two rounds.

Mr Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving leader. He is seeking a record fifth term, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009.

The election took place two weeks before the prime minister is due in court to face corruption charges, which he denies.

What did the exit polls suggest?

Pre-election opinion polls suggested Likud and Blue and White were more or less tied, with neither Mr Netanyahu nor Mr Gantz sure of a clear path to victory.

But the exit polls published by Israel’s three main broadcasters on Monday evening indicated Likud was on course to win between three to five more seats than Blue and White.

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