Hours after polls closed on Tuesday, and after 99 percent of the votes were tallied, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed a mandate to third term as premier, but the battle between the country’s right- and left-wing blocs remained virtually in a dead heat. As voting ended Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu party garnered only 31 seats − compared to the 42 the two parties won in the last election in 2009 − prompting him to announce that he was already working toward forming “as broad a government as possible. I am proud to be your prime minister and I thank you for giving me the opportunity, for the third time, to lead the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said after midnight. “It is a great honor, but it is also a great responsibility. It is an opportunity to make changes that the citizens of Israel wish upon themselves and that will serve all the citizens of Israel. I intend on making those changes by forming the broadest coalition possible, and I have begun working toward that tonight.” Leading up to the election, polls had predicted a tight race between the left and right blocs, but by early Wednesday the former had 59 seats, and the latter 61.
As of 4 A.M. Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu claimed 31 seats in the next Knesset. The count for the rest of the parties was as follows: Yesh Atid 19, Labor 15, Shas 11, Habayit Hayehudi 11, United Torah Judaism 7, Hatnuah 6, Meretz 6, United Arab List-Ta’al 5, Balad 3, and Kadima teetering on the verge of the electoral threshold with 2 seats.
Though the regular ballots are tallied, the final results will only be published later this week because of the time needed to count the double envelope ballots, used by people who did not vote at their regular polling stations: soldiers, patients in hospitals, doctors and nurses on call, prisoners, police officers and prison guards, polling booth secretaries, disabled people and overseas government personnel.