With nearly all votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is set to emerge as the election's big winner with at least 30 seats. The Zionist Union trails behind with 24 seats. The Joint List of Arab parties is the third-largest party at this point, followed by Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz.
The coalition negotiations are expected to begin officially next Wednesday, after President Reuven Rivlin taps Netanyahu to form the next government.
The White House said it was “deeply concerned” by “divisive rhetoric” that sought to marginalize Israeli Arabs, alluding to some of Netanyahu’s remarks.
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11:30 P.M. U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday evening spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and protested remarks made by the latter during his election campaign against the establishment of a Palestinian state and against Israel's Arab citizens. Obama told Netanyahu that the United States will have to reassess its options regarding the peace process, in light of these statements. (Barak Ravid) Read full story
7:26 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his belief in a two-state solution with the Palestinians in an interview with the American NBC television channel on Thursday evening.
His statement comes only days after he rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state if he were to be reelected prime minister. His words were quoted on the NRG website.(Barak Ravid) Read more here
6:21 P.M. MK Eli Yishay charged that foul play led to his party's loss at the polls. His party, Yahad, which failed to receive the requisite number of votes to make it into the Israeli parliament, filed a complaint with the Israeli Central Elections Committee, claiming that the party's competitors cheated, robbing the party of crucial votes. (Yair Ettinger)
1:41 P.M. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be impossible to achieve with an Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, AFP reported.
"Netanyahu's statements against a two-state solution and against a Palestinian state... are proof, if correct, that there is no seriousness in the [future] Israeli government about a political solution," he said.
The Palestinian leader made the remarks at a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah. The discussion dealt with the Palestinian Central Council's call to cut security coordination and rethink the ties with Israel.
Abbas said that the Palestinian leadership does not interfere in Israeli internal affairs but nevertheless has a right to check in on the Arab citizens of Israel and their plans to gain rights.
Abbas said Netanyahu's rejection of the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state are very worrying, adding that the Palestinians intend to go through with plans to turn to international institutions to "gain rights for the Palestinian people." (Jack Khoury)
11:40 A.M. Israel's Central Elections Committee publishes the final results for the 20th Knesset: Likud won 30 Knesset seats, the Zionist Union came in at 24, the Joint List garnered 13 seats, Yesh Atid got 11, Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu got 10, Habayit Hayehudi got 8 seats, Shas took seven, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu each took six and Meretz rounded out the list with five.
Out of the 5,878,362 eligible voters in Israel, 4,253,336 cast ballots in the 2015 election. That translates to 72.3 percent of eligible voters, up from 66.6 percent of eligible voters who cast ballots in the country's last election. Out of all the votes cast, 43,869 were disqualified.
The committee emphasized that the results are still not official, because some polling stations experienced discrepancies that are being examined. The final, official results will be handed to President Reuven Rivlin on March 25. (Ofra Edelman)
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10:14 A.M. Following the announcement that Meretz gained a Knesset seat, the party's chairwoman Zehava Galon announced she would not resign. "Meretz received a fifth seat from young supporters, from Israeli soldiers, who raised the party's rate of support. That allowed Meretz to maintain its strength in terms of the number of voters – some 170,000 – compared with the last election. Under the circumstances and against all odds, that is a success. (Ilan Lior)
10:01 A.M. The Central Election Committee has finished tallying the more than 230,000 final votes of the 2015 election. The committee's website, where the numbers are still being updated, shows that 72.31 percent of the Israeli population voted. The final results, including the official tally of Knesset seats per party, will be announced in the coming hours (the panel is also taking into consideration surplus agreements between the parties).
Despite the initial figures, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has gained a seat, bringing it to 30, and left-wing party Meretz has also gained a seat, bringing it to five. The Joint List lost a seat, going down to 13, while United Torah Judaism is down to six.
Most of the remaining votes being tallied are those of soldiers, whose voting patterns differ from the rest of the country. The Likud has greater representation, with 25.67 percent support among soldiers versus 23.4 percent countrywide support. The Zionist Union garnered less support among the final votes with 17.73 percent versus 18.68 percent throughout the country. (Ofra Edelman)
8:55 A.M. The final vote tally may give the leftist Meretz party an extra Knesset seat, rising from four to five. The development would come at the expense of the Joint List, which would drop from 14 seats to 13.
The final results may give Likud 30 Knesset seats, up from 29. United Torah Judaism may drop from seven to six seats.
Some 163,000 of the remaining special ballots have been counted, out of 200,000 in total. These include diplomats, prisoners and prison wardens, hospital patients and staff, and people who voted at accessible polling stations, among others. (Ofra Edelman).
10:03 P.M. Likud MK: We'll rule without fear, we'll change the judiciary and media
Likud MK Yariv Levin, considered a prominent candidate for a ministerial position in the new Netanyahu cabinet, said he will act to push forward legislation to change the face of the Supreme Court. "We'll rule without fear," Levin said.
"This is a government that has the opportunity to do great things, that were impossible in the last term. We can make great changes in the judicial system, in the media or changes in the relations between elected officials and state officials," he said. (Jonathan Lis)