Jerusalem: Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc has secured an emphatic victory in Israel’s general elections by claiming 64 out of the 120 seats in parliament, bringing the country’s longest-serving premier back at the helm after a brief gap and also ending prolonged political instability.
Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party won 32 seats in the Knesset while outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid got 24 seats.
The biggest surprise of the polls after the final count was over is the far-right Religious Zionism party which won 14 seats becoming the third largest party.
Netanyahu’s other likely coalition partners, Shas and United Torah Judaism won 11 and seven seats, respectively bringing the bloc’s total count to 64.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity won 12 seats, and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman got six seats, one more following the counting of the double-envelope votes.
Arab-majority parties Hadash-Ta’al and United Arab List each got five seats but the breakaway Balad party failed to cross the threshold of 3.25 percent required for a Knesset (parliament) entry.
Labour, once a ruling party in Israel, got just over the 3.25 percent electoral threshold winning four seats.
Left-wing party, Meretz, was just a few thousand votes short of making it into the next Knesset, ending a three-decade-long era of political representation for it since its formulation in 1992.
Lapid on Thursday evening conceded defeat in the elections and congratulated Netanyahu, 73, moving towards a smooth transfer of power “for the sake of people of Israël and the State of Israel”
He had been preparing his ministers and team the whole of Thursday to ensure a smooth and orderly handover of reigns.
“The State of Israel is above any political consideration,” Lapid said in a tweet Thursday evening.
“I wish Netanyahu luck for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel”, he stressed.
Israel has been locked in an unprecedented period of political stalemate since 2019, when Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Tuesday’s election was the fifth in the country in less than four years.
For many years, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, appeared to be politically invincible.
But he met with a rude jolt after being ousted by an unprecedented coalition of parties whose only common goal was to see his ouster.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1949, Netanyahu holds the record of being the longest-serving Prime Minister in the country’s history
Having served in the position earlier between 1996 and 1999, Netanyahu in 2020 surpassed the record held by one of the Jewish state’s founding leaders, David Ben-Gurion.