Israel Political Analyst, Jewish Weekly Newspaper, James Marlow

Benjamin Netanyahu has won a historic fifth term as Israel’s prime minister with close-to-complete unofficial election results giving his right-wing Likud and other nationalist and religious parties a solid majority in Knesset.

Bibi had initially declared victory in as exit polls show his Likud party gaining ground.

Addressing a jubilant gathering of supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu praised them for an “almost inconceivable achievement.”

In a speech repeatedly interrupted by cheering supporters, Netanyahu said: “It’s a night of tremendous victory.” “I was very moved that the nation of Israel once again entrusted me for the fifth time, and with an even greater trust.”

He said he had already begun talking to fellow right wing and religious parties about forming a new coalition.

“I want to make it clear, it will be a right-wing government, but I intend to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens, right or left, Jews and non-Jews alike,” he said

The tight race was seen as a referendum on the long-serving leader. It will give Netanyahu an important boost as he braces for the likelihood of criminal charges in a series of corruption scandals.

The near-final results showed the Blue & White party, led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz, deadlocked with Likud at 35 seats. But most of its support seems to have come at the expense of the venerable Labor and leftist Meretz parties, who both earned historic lows in Tuesday’s election, thus leaving them with no path to form a left-wing coalition.

With 97.4% of the vote counted, Likud and its traditional political allies had a solid 65-55 majority. There are still votes from soldiers that have yet to be counted, which could make the difference for difference for both the Zehut and New Right parties, which at present failed to get into Knesset for they did not earn a sufficient number of votes to cross the minimum threshold.

Likud 35

Blue and White 35

Shas 8

Yahadut Hatorah 8

Labor 6

Hadash-Ta’al 6

Yisrael Beitenu 5

United Right-Wing 5

Meretz 4

Kulanu 4

Ra’am-Balad 4

At present, the following notables did not get into Knesset:

  • New Right (headed by current Education Minister Naftali Bennet and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked)
  • Zehut (Moshe Feiglin)
  • Gesher (Orly Abekasis-Levi)

Two of Netanyahu’s potential allies, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, have yet to formally confirm they would sit with his new coalition and could emerge as wildcards. In any case, the country now faces what could be weeks of political negotiations over the composition of a ruling coalition.

By Isaac Sherman