Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a high chance of returning to power after election exit poll results showed his right-wing bloc is headed for victory with a narrow majority.
An exit poll is a survey conducted as soon as the voters leave the polling station. It means it is still preliminary, and final results are subject to change according to official calculations.
The exit poll showed Netanyahu could grab a slim majority and make a comeback with the anticipated support of ultra-Orthodox Jews and the ruling right-wing party.
Israel’s election, the country’s fifth election in less than four years, has reportedly irritated the public, although voter turnout remains at its highest level since 1999.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been tried on corruption charges which he has repeatedly denied.
Polls by three of Israel’s major TV stations show that Netanyahu and his allies will win the 61-seat majority of the 120 seats in Israel’s parliament (Knesset) needed to form a new government.
While reminding his supporters that the exit poll is not an actual count and is subject to change, Netanyahu said it was “a good start” in a video broadcast by Israel’s Kan 11 channel.
Netanyahu’s main rival is the current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who helped topple him last year. According to some polls, Lapid’s camp is poised to take 54 – 55 seats, making it the second-largest party in parliament.
Netanyahu, 73, is one of Israel’s most controversial political figures and a strong supporter of Israel’s settlement-building project in the West Bank, which has been occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. The settlement is considered illegal under international law, although Israel denies this.
He opposes establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a formula supported by the most international community, including the Biden administration in the USA.