Seeking a fourth term in office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Wednesday’s Knesset elections, with his Likud Party taking the largest number of seats.
Likud has 30 seats, followed by the center-left challenger Zionist Union — an alliance of the Labor and Hatnua lists — with 24. The Joint Arab List has 14; the centrist Yesh Atid 10; Kulanu, led by former Likud politician Moshe Kahlon, 10; the right-wing Jewish Home, led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, 8.
Other seats have been claimed by the religious parties Shas (7) and United Torah Judaism (6); the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (6); and the left-wing Meretz (4).
Netanyahu and Likud prevailed despite polls indicating a slight lead for Zionist Union. Meretz also fared poorly, compared to expectations.
Netanyahu is now trying to forge a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. He has spoken with Jewish Home’s Bennett, Kulanu’s Kahlon, Yisrael Beytenu’s Lieberman, Shas’s Aryeh Deri, and United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman. A combination of those groups would hold the Knesset with 68 MKs.
The Prime Minister said he hopes to complete the coalition within two to three weeks.