Israel Election 2019: After Failing to Secure Majority, Netanyahu Says Will Form ‘Strong, Zionist Government’

Supporters chant ‘we don’t want unity’ as PM says after ‘one of the toughest election campaigns we’d known,’ only he can face up to ‘existential threat’ of Iran’s regional influence

Netanyahu speaks to supporters late on election night, after failing to secure a clear majority, September 18, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday overnight to form a “strong, Zionist government” that would reflect the views of "many of the nation's people" after his Likud party came in second in exit polls in Israel’s election, warning his supporters of a “dangerous, anti-Zionist government.”

Speaking to a half-empty hall at the Likud campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu added that he already began negotiations with Likud’s potential coalition partners on the right wing. “They all committed to pursue our goals together,” Netanyahu said, as his supporters chanted “We don’t want unity,” referring to the possibility of a national unity government between Likud and Kahol Lavan.

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"There won't and cannot be a government supported by anti-Zionist Arab parties who deny the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, who glorify bloodthirsty terrorists who murder our soldiers," Netanyahu added.  

“This election has been one of the toughest we’d known,” he added, blasting “one-sided media that was against us. It didn’t stop us.”

Average exit poll results

“We’re still waiting for the final results, but one thing is certain – the State of Israel is at a historic point in time,” the prime minister added, arguing only a government led by him can face up to the “existential threat” that is Iran’s nuclear deal and Tehran’s influence over the Middle East.

Exit polls released by Israeli television channels Tuesday evening showed Netanyahu has failed to secure a ruling majority in Israel's second election of 2019, with his right-wing bloc projected between 54 and 57 seats.

The biggest party, according to two of the polls, is Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan. However, since neither Netanyahu nor Gantz appear to have gained a 61-seat majority, the two are likely to head to deliberations with President Reuven Rivlin who will determine which of them gets the mandate to try and form a governing coalition. 

In all three polls, the Joint List of Arab parties is projected to be the third biggest party in the next Knesset. Before Netanyahu’s speech, it was reported that Gantz had spoken to Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh and the two agreed to meet.