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.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with the chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, January 20, 2012
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with the chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, January 20, 2012 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

Exit polls put Israel’s right-wing parties ahead of their left-wing rivals, which would allow Benjamin Netanyahu to claim a fourth term as prime minister.

Three surveys had Netanyahu’s Likud at 27 or 28 seats. The opposition Zionist Camp, led by the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog, had 27 seats in all three polls.

Possible right-wing coalition

In coalition with Naftali Bennet’s nationalist Jewish Home, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and 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 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.

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.

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