Netanyahu: Right-wing led by Likud won a clear victory
Likud member and former minister Silvan Shalom: Government led by Livni is unrealistic, Kadima 'delusional'.
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory in Tuesday's parliamentary election as he addressed supporters in a speech early Wednesday, despite exit polls that predicted his party narrowly coming second to the ruling Kadima Party.
However, the exit polls also indicate that Likud is in a better position than Kadima to lead a coalition because of a strong showing by other nationalist parties.
"I've spoken to party leaders," Netanyahu said, "and we have agreed to begin negotiations on forming a new government as soon as tomorrow."
"Even if exit polls are accurate, there is no doubt regarding the only conclusion they point to: the Israeli people have said their word in a clear fashion, the nationalist bloc, led by Likud, won a clear victory," Netanyahu added.
"The question is not what the polls say. The question is what the reality is. From this day on, the right wing bloc rises to an absolute majority in the Knesset," the Likud chair went on to say.
"There is no doubt regarding our own movement's meteoric rise. In the last Knesset we had only 12 seats, 10% of the Knesset. We have more than doubled our power and grown more than any other party," Netanyahu continued.
"The rise of the right-wing camp and the Likud can only mean one thing, the people want change," Netanyahu exclaimed. "The people want one path. Our path won and it will lead the people."
Likud members, meanwhile, were quick to stress that Kadima's apparent win did not mean it would necessarily be chosen to form the next coalition.
"I am certain that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister," said Likud lawmaker Gilad Erdan. "Netanyahu has a clear advantage because the right wing parties have a larger bloc. The test is not which party gets the most votes, but which candidate has the best chance to form a coalition, and that person is Benjamin Netanyahu."
Netanyahu, meanwhile, phoned Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman just after the exit polls were released, apparently to discuss the future of the next coalition.
Former minister Silvan Shalom, another member of Likud, said Kadima was "delusional" to declare such a quick win. A government led by Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni was unrealistic, said Shalom, adding that Likud was the obvious choice for leading the next government.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter (Kadima) responded to Shalom by saying: "Tzipi Livni is the leader of the State of Israel from today until the next Knesset elections."