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Netanyahu surges but still just shy of power: Israel exit polls

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is likely to once again be the largest party in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, but still may fall just short of a governing majority, according to exit polls.

Israel’s Channel 11 and 12 found that Likud (currently at 32 seats) is likely to get 36 or 37 Knesset seats, while the center-left Blue and White coalition will stay with 33 delegates. But that poll still shows the Likud plus its likely right-wing coalition partners to only get 60 seats — still shy of the 61 needed to give them a majority of the 120-seat Knesset.

According to the polls, the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party will once again have enough votes to tip the balance of power, awarding or denying Likud a majority. In the last election, Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman said he would refuse to give either side a majority unless the two main parties agreed on a power-sharing plan, which they were unable to do.

Third place is expected to go to the Joint List of Arab parties, with 14 or 15 seats.

Voter turnout as of 8:00 PM Israel time was at 65.6%, the highest rate since 1999. The exit polls do not reflect the last two hours of voting, during which Blue and White campaigners were reported to have traversed the country trying to find non-voters to cast ballots for them.

Netanyahu is scheduled to go on trial for two weeks to battle corruption charges. He will have to do that while simultaneously cobbling together a coalition — though if he does, the new government could conceivably pass a law protecting him from prosecution.

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink


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