Israel election exit polls suggest Netanyahu on brink of winning narrow majority

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Former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu may scrape a narrow majority, initial election exit polls suggested Tuesday.

If exit polls are correct – a big if – Netanyahu and his political allies appear to be on pace to win a narrow majority of seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

First exit polls from the country’s three main broadcasters suggested Netanyahu’s block was poised to take 61 or 62 of the parliament’s 120 seats.

The election was marked by what was likely the highest turnout since 1999. The Central Election Committee said that two-thirds of eligible voters cast their ballots by 8 p.m. – two hours before the polls were set to close.

Netanyahu spent the closing weeks of the campaign barnstorming the country in a truck converted into a travelling stage encased in bulletproof glass. Pro-Netanyahu ads – and ads depicting his opponents looking shady – plastered the sides of buses.

It’s not yet certain that Netanyahu has made a comeback, after he was outmaneuvered following last year’s elections by current acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

However, the exit polls are only projections based on interviews with voters on Tuesday, not official results. Official results may not be final until Wednesday or even Thursday.

Once official results are in, President Isaac Herzog will invite the politician he deems most likely to be able to form a government to open coalition negotiations.

Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid casts his vote at a polling station in Tel Aviv on November 1, 2022.

A Netanyahu return to the head of government could spell fundamental shifts to Israeli society.

A Netanyahu government would almost certainly include the newly ascendant Jewish nationalist Religious Zionism/Jewish Power alliance, whose leaders include Itamar Ben Gvir, once convicted for inciting racism and supporting terrorism.

And Netanyahu allies have talked about making changes to the judicial system. That could put an end to Netanyahu’s own corruption trial, where he has pleaded not guilty.

Netanyahu himself has been one of the main issues not only in Tuesday’s election but in the four that preceded it, with voters – and politicians – splitting into camps based on whether they want the man universally known as Bibi in power or not.

Part of the difficulty in building a stable government over the past four elections has been that even some political parties that agree with Netanyahu on the issues refuse to work with him for personal or political reasons of their own.

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