Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of Likud Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets supporters as the Leader of Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman (L) standing beside him in Tel Aviv on Jan. 22, 2013. Exit polls conducted by three major Israeli broadcasters Tuesday evening showed that the right-wing union led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gained a narrow lead in the country's early parliamentary elections. (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)
TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Exit polls conducted by Israel's three major Israeli broadcasters Tuesday evening showed that the right-wing union led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gained a narrow lead in the country's early parliamentary elections.
The polls showed the Likud-Beitenu joint list is set to receive 31 seats in the 120-member unicameral Knesset (parliament), and the newly-established centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party surprisingly came in second with 18 to 19 seats. The left Labor party, which earlier opinion polls predicted would become the second largest party in the new legislature, was ranked third with 17 seats.
The ultra-orthodox Shas party, a partner in the outgoing ruling coalition, mustered 11 to 13 seats, followed by the far-right Habayit Heyeudi (Jewish Home) Party with 12 seats. The left Meretz party obtained at least six seats in the new Knesset, more than double the seats it got in the 2009 elections. Arab parties, in total, got 11 seats.
As predicted by opinion polls conducted before the elections, the centrist Kadima party, the second-largest in the previous Knesset, failed to gain a single seat in the new legislature. A minimum 2 percent of the total votes cast is required for a party to enter the parliament.
The center-left camp gained a total of 58 seats, against 62 seats for the right-wing bloc, according to the exit polls. The results, however, may change as vote counting is continuing throughout the night.
The polls, conducted by Israel's Channel 1, 2 and 10, interviewed 15,000 to 20,000 Israelis out of the more than 5.6 million eligible voters outside the polling stations across the country, and were published right after the polls closed at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT).
Right after the exit polls were published, Netanyahu thanked Israeli voters. In a post on his Facebook page, he said, "It is clear that the people of Israel decided they wanted me to continue to serve as prime minister of Israel, and build a broad government as much as possible. I'll start forming this government tonight. The election results are a great opportunity for all Israeli citizens. Many challenges ahead."
In her reactions to the exit polls, Labor party leader Shelly Yechimovich said, "There is no doubt that a political drama is taking place before our eyes. There is a chance for a political change that will lead to the end of the persecution of Netanyahu's government. I'll do everything and already started to create a coalition based on economic and social principles that will revive also the diplomatic process."
Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, has already spoken on the phone with Yechimovich about a possible collaboration, according to Israeli media reports. Both of them are supposed to speak in a televised address later Tuesday night.
Dr. Yehuda Ben Meir, an expert with the Institute for National Strategic Studies, told reporters that the status of Netanyahu was weakened in this election and he would "face a difficult time" in forming a ruling coalition.
He added that There is a Future party, led by popular TV personality Yair Lapid, is very likely to join Netanyahu's coalition, as Lapid has indicated his intention to be part of the new coalition before the elections.
As shown by the exit polls, Ben Meir said, the new parliament is moving toward center instead of turning rightward as the center- left bloc gained more seats in this election.
TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said early Wednesday morning that he will work to create a broad-based government to meet challenges including the global economic crisis, the Iranian nuclear threat and the conflict with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu made the remarks at the headquarters of his right- wing Likud-Beitenu union in Israel's biggest city, Tel Aviv, shortly after Israel's major television networks announced the results of their exit polls. Full story
TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Shelly Yachimovich, leader of Israel's opposition Labor party, vowed early Wednesday morning to form an alternative government to replace the current ruling coalition led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Tonight could be a big opportunity to establish an alternative government to Netanyahu's government," Yachimovich said in a speech at the Labor Party's headquarters in Tel Aviv. Full story