Israeli Exit Polls Point to Possibility of a Netanyahu Comeback
Israel’s Election: Takeaways
Benjamin Netanyahu seems poised to take power again. But regardless of his fate, the election already highlights several trends that could have a lasting effect on Israel.
While Israeli election results indicate a slim parliamentary majority for former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they also represent a stunning triumph for Israel’s far right — a once fringe, aggressively anti-democratic, fundamentally racist movement that may soon control some of the country’s most influential positions of power.
The results of Israel’s fifth election since 2019 may not be confirmed until Friday, but the vote already demonstrates profound political and social shifts in Israel.
Should the current results stand, Mr. Netanyahu will re-enter office at the helm of one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli history.
But even if last-minute changes turn his lead into a stalemate, the election still constitutes a triumph for his far-right allies, a disaster for the Israeli left, a danger for Israel’s Palestinian minority and a sign of profound disagreement among Jewish Israelis about the nature of the country’s Jewish identity.
The former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked voters for a “huge vote of confidence” as his rightwing religious bloc extended its lead with about 80% of all votes counted in the country’s fifth election in four years.
His Likud party has not yet performed as well as expected. But a surge in support for his new far-right allies, the Religious Zionists, and what appears to be a poor showing for two pro-Arab rights parties and the leftwing Meretz party, means the scandal-plagued former leader is at present the most likely candidate to be able to form a coalition government in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election.
The night’s strongest showing was from Netanyahu’s new partners, the far-right Religious Zionists, which emerged as the third-largest party. The party’s top candidate, the extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, celebrated at an all-male campaign gathering overnight in Jerusalem, where supporters waved Israeli flags and chanted “Death to terrorists”.
Speaking at the Likud’s campaign headquarters in the early hours of Wednesday after exit polls suggested a narrow majority for his camp, Netanyahu said that his rightwing religious bloc was “alive and kicking”.
“We are on the brink of a very large victory,” Netanyahu told party members and activists. “The people want power, not weakness.”
Exit polls in Israel’s election on Tuesday point to possible narrow victory for former Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led bloc, an outcome which if confirmed would see the veteran former prime minister return to power just a year and a half after being ousted by a disparate coalition whose sole unifying issue was removing him.
Exit polls by leading television networks gave Netanyahu’s right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc either 61 or 62 seats in the 120-member Knesset, compared to 54 or 55 to the left/right/Arab bloc led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid.