In a Twitter post Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared himself the victor in his contentious battle for reelection.
The New York Times is still calling the race too close to call as Netanyahu – along with primary rival and Zionist Union candidate Isaac Herzog – await the final tally. Exit polling, the paper reports, shows the two hopefuls in a virtual dead heat.
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Yochanan Visser, Western Journalism Israeli correspondent, has been covering the election in detail this week. In a recent update to his latest report, he published the following update.
At 10 PM local time tonight, the three major Israeli TV channels published their exit polls. Channel 1 and Channel 10 exit polls showed Zionist Union and Likud tied at 27 seats. Channel 2 gave Likud a one seat lead, with 28 to Zionist Union’s 27. The United Arab list received 13 seats in the polls; Benneth’s Jewish Home received eight seats only. The religious right-wing Yahad party failed to cross the threshold.
The results showed that the strategy of Prime Minister Netanyahu over the last week worked. His Likud party succeeded in closing a four-seat gap with the Zionist Union.
Netanyahu and other Likud members used scare tactics to convey the message that votes for smaller right-wing parties would endanger the forming of a government under the leadership of the PM and would bring the left to power.
Netanyahu also used the meddling by the U.S. government and Scandinavian countries in the Israeli election to gain more votes. Both the Obama administration and the Scandinavian countries are very unpopular in Israel.
The results of the exit polls indicate that Netanyahu is set to retain the premiership. He will be able to form a coalition of right-wing parties with the new center party Kulanu of former Likud minister Kahlon, or a broad coalition that includes Kulanu and Yes Atid. The latter won 12 seats according to the exit polls.
The chances that Zionist Union leader Herzog will be able to form a coalition are low.
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