Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed ‘sweet victory’ as he led in a cliffhanger election according to exit polls, yet was still short of a governing majority in a third national ballot in less than a year.
On the basis of initial projections by Israel’s three main television channels, Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, claimed victory in Monday’s vote over his main challenger, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White.
Updated exit polls, however, showed Netanyahu two seats short of a majority in Israel’s parliament, a gap signalling possible deadlock, with actual results trickling in throughout Tuesday.
A win for Netanyahu, 70, after inconclusive ballots in April and September, would be testimony to the political durability of Israel’s longest-serving leader, who fought the latest campaign under the shadow of a looming corruption trial.
The first trial of a sitting prime minister in Israel is due to begin on March 17. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.