Exit Polls Put Israel’s Netanyahu Within Reach of Majority

Israel’s conservative prime minister is more likely to put together a majority than his left-wing rivals.

Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Enrico Letta of Italy in Rome, October 22, 2013
Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Enrico Letta of Italy in Rome, October 22, 2013 (Palazzo Chigi)

Exit polls shown on Israeli television Tuesday night put right-wing parties ahead of their left-wing rivals, allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to claim a fourth term as prime minister.

Three exit polls showed Netanyahu’s Likud winning 27 or 28 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. The opposition Zionist Camp, led by the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog, had 27 seats in all three polls.

In coalition with Naftali Bennet’s nationalist Jewish Home and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu as well as the religious Shas party, Netanyahu would command at least 48 seats. 61 are needed for a majority.

If Netanyahu also wins the support of the religious United Torah Judaism party and the new centrist Kulanu, led by Likud dissident Moshe Kahlon, he should be able to stay in power.

The left, by contrast, would struggle to find a majority.

Exit polls gave former finance minister Yair Lapid’s liberal Yesh Atid eleven to twelve seats, the left-wing Meretz only five and the United Arab List twelve to thirteen seats.

Most Arabs — who would be Israel’s third largest party — have ruled out joining a Zionist coalition, meaning that even if Kulanu switched sides the left would not have a majority.

Final results are not expected until early Wednesday morning.