Netanyahu announces victory, starts talking to coalition partners
It is unclear if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to form a government for the seventh time in his three-decade political career, according to exit polls on the three television networks Tuesday night.
Two of the three polls indicated that his bloc of Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Zionist Party received enough support together with the Yamina Party of Naftali Bennett, who said during the campaign that he was ready to join a coalition with either political bloc.
Sources in Likud said Netanyahu would try to form a government as soon as possible. Bennett's associates said they were "not in Netanyahu's pocket" and joining his government was not a foregone conclusion.
Netanyahu declared on Twitter that he had won "a giant victory." He called Naftali Bennett, who told him he was waiting for the final results and he would "act for the good of all the citizens of Israel." Netanyahu also called the other leaders in his political camp and asked them to join a strong, right-wing government.
The turnout of 67.2% was a drop of 4.3% since last March's election in which the turnout was 71.5% and the lowest of the four elections of the past two years.
The exit polls came following a tense day of infighting with both political camps. Yamina fought for seats with the Religious Zionist Party.
Gantz accused Lapid of sending out false statements about Blue and White and other satellite parties.
Blue and White responded that Lapid was disseminating fake news, saying that "it does not matter if Lapid ends up with 20 or 22 mandates, but it does matter if Blue and White does not cross the electoral threshold and will not be there to stop Bibi from running the country by himself."
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