It Is Netanyahu! Exit Polls Project Victory for the Former Israel Prime Minister

Exits polls gave Netanyahu’s bloc a majority, with an expected 61 or 62 of the 120 Knesset seats, enough to form a government. If the polls are confirmed, it will be Netanyahu, once again, who will be in a position to form a government — one that could be more stable than any since 2019, the year when Netanyahu was indicted.

It Is Netanyahu! Exit Polls Project Victory for the Former Israel Prime Minister
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Former Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on course for victory in the country’s fifth elections within four years held on Tuesday.

The exit polls show Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc ahead with a slim majority of seats over his centre-left opponents led by current Prime Minister Yair Lapid in what might be Netanyahu’s dramatic comeback.

The 73-year-old Netanyahu and the longest-serving Prime Minister the country has ever had, is forecast to replace Yair Lapid, who toppled him last year.

 While thanking jubilant supporters in Jerusalem, Bibi, as he is commonly referred to by his supporters remarked, "We are close to a big victory.”

 The election was widely seen as a vote for or against Mr Netanyahu's return.

The exit polls gave Netanyahu’s bloc a majority, with an expected 61 or 62 of the 120 Knesset seats, enough to form a government.

With just under 85% of the votes cast on Tuesday counted, it was projected to pick up as many as 65 seats.

The situation could still change, however, and exit polls have been wrong in the past. If the Balad party, another Palestinian grouping, manages to pass the threshold of 3.25 percent of the total votes, that would change the distribution of all the votes.

 On his part, Netanyahu’s main opponent, incumbent Prime Minister Yair Lapid, insisted that the race was not done yet, telling supporters on Wednesday morning that “until the last envelope is counted, nothing is over and nothing is final”.

With votes in the left-wing city of Tel Aviv still to be tallied, his broad anti-Netanyahu camp, which managed to oust the former leader from power last year, was set to win just 54 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, as exit polls suggested.

If Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party fails to secure a majority in the Knesset, he will have to rely on a coalition with the far-right, ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party whose leaders are infamously known for using anti-Arab rhetoric and advocating the deportation of "disloyal" politicians or civilians.

 While accompanied by his Wife Sara, Mr Netanyahu, thanked voters for a “huge vote of confidence” as his right-wing religious bloc extended its lead with around 60% of all votes counted.

 The exit polls have engendered scenes of celebration as people jumped up and down, waved flags and chanted Netanyahu's nickname, Bibi. One man repeatedly blew a shofar, or ram's horn, a ritual instrument used by some Jewish people at times of special significance.

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 According to the exit polls, Likud stands to be the biggest party, with 30-31 seats, commanding a majority with the support of nationalist and religious parties.

Yesh Atid, which led the coalition which brought down Mr Netanyahu in elections last year, is forecast to win 22-24 seats.

Religious Zionism appears to have won 14 seats, which would make it the third largest party.

"It will be better now," said Religious Zionism supporter, Julian, at the party's venue in Jerusalem.

"When [Religious Zionism politician Itamar Ben-Gvir] will be minister of public security, it will be even better - he'll bring back security to the people of Israel. That's very important."

However, political scientist Gayil Talshir, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, warned that if the exit polls "reflect the real results, Israel is on its way to become Orban's Hungary", recently branded an "electoral autocracy" by the EU.

If the polls are confirmed, it will be Netanyahu, once again, who will be in a position to form a government — one that could be more stable than any since 2019, the year when Netanyahu was indicted.

It would mark a remarkable turnaround for Mr Netanyahu, whose political future was widely written off after Mr Lapid formed an unlikely alliance of ideologically diverse parties to take power in June 2021, with the uniting aim of making it impossible for Mr Netanyahu to form a government.

At the time, Mr Netanyahu vowed to bring it down as quickly as possible and one year later the coalition government concluded it could not survive and collapsed after resignations meant it no longer had a majority.

 Mr Netanyahu, is one of Israel's most controversial political figures, loathed by many on the centre and left but adored by Likud's grassroots supporters.

He is a firm supporter of Israel's settlement-building in the West Bank, occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. Settlements there are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

He opposes the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict - a formula supported by most of the international community, including the Biden administration in the US.

Mr Netanyahu is also currently on trial for alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust - charges he fiercely denies. His possible partners in a Likud-led coalition government have said they would reform the law, in a move which would bring a halt to his trial.

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