Final Election Results: Bennett Wiped Out; Netanyahu's Likud Gains One Seat

Right-wing bloc holds majority over center-left ■ Bennett calls for results not to be published over irregularities ■ Meretz chairwoman meets election panel following reports of voter fraud

Election official holds a form as votes in Israel's general election are counted in Haifa, April 10, 2019.
Rami Shllush

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a fifth term on Wednesday with Benny Gantz conceding the election after more than 98 percent of the votes gave the right-wing bloc a lead of 9-10 seats, according to the latest results.

Netanyahu's Likud tied with Gantz's Kahol Lavan party with 35 seats each. Almost all right-wing parties have said they would recommend to the president that Netanyahu form the next ruling coalition.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 22Haaretz

Early Thursday, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party underwent a political rollercoaster when it was announced by the Central Election Committee that it had passed the electoral threshold. 

However, later data suggested that the party didn't get enough votes to join the Knesset. It remains unclear whether or not the right-wing outfit, which Bennett and Shaked formed recently in a surprise move, survived the swift election. 

In the right-wing bloc, the parties that made it into the Knesset are Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, Union of Right-Wing Parties and Kulanu. In the center-left bloc, the parties that made it into the Knesset are Kahol Lavan, Hadash-Ta'al, Labor, Meretz and United Arab List-Balad. 

Turnout in the Arab community was one of the lowest in history. Netanyahu's Likud party provided activists with 1,200 hidden cameras "to monitor" Arab polling stations — a move that prompted Israel's Central Elections Committee to file a police complaint.

11:59 P.M. Election committee chair says results may still change

Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer said that while the results published Thursday night went through a highly scrutinized inspection process, they are not the final results that will be published next Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, United Torah Judaism and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Hayamin Hehadash party asked the committee not to publish the results as voting irregularities were still being examined.

Melcer said he rejected their petitions since "it was clear these are 'temporary' results, subject to change."

11:50 P.M. Central Elections Committee announces final results

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has 36 seats in the next Knesset, Israel's Central Elections Committee announces after a recount of some votes. Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party remained out of the Knesset.

Preliminary results gave Likud a seat less, on par with Kahol Lavan's 35 seats, which remained unchanged.

United Torah Judaism lost one seat, compared with preliminary results, giving it seven out of 120 Knesset seats. All other parties' results remained unchanged.

7:54 P.M. Far-right party attempts to join with Haredis ahead of coalition talks

Naftali Bennett speaking in Hayamin Hehadsh headquarters in Bnei Brak, Israel, April 9, 2019.

The chair of Habayit Hayehudi reached out to heads of Ultra-Orthodox parties, proposing a "technical bloc" ahead of coalition negotiations. Currently, Habayit Hayehudi is part of the Right-wing Union, a coalition of religious Zionist groups, including the National Union lead by Bezalel Smotrich and followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

7:39 P.M. Central Elections Committee says final results expected by midnight

Israel's Central Elections Committee said it is working to correct some faults in processing some 23,000 votes from 35 polling stations, and will publish final results by midnight Israel time. 

The committee explained that some votes were not included in the initial count due to a computing error, stemming from wrong data input on number of voters.

7:25 P.M. U.S., European, South American leaders congratulate Netanyahu

Some world leaders have already congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his election win, even though it is customary to do so only after a government is formed.

U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Hundruan President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov all called Netanyahu after preliminary results were published.

6:25 P.M. Human right organization calls for investigation into Likud hidden cameras

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel urges Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and Israel Police to launch a criminal investigation into hundreds of hidden cameras places in polling stations in Arab Communities ahead of Election Day.

The hidden cameras "harmed the basic principles of the election process ... which state that elections would be free and secret," attorney Sawsan Zaher of Adalah said.

6:01 P.M. 15,000 votes still not processed, Central Elections Committee says

Central Elections Committee said data from 30 polling stations, mostly in Israel's south, have not been processed. It added around 500-600 voters cast their ballot in each polling stations, making a total of about 15,000 votes that have yet to be counted, and may affect the election's final result.

According the the committee, 4,303,415 Israeli citizens voted on Tuesday.

5:45 P.M. Labor chairman 'to look into early primary election'

Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay said he would consider stepping down as party leader, responding to calls from party members following Labor's poor showing in the election, securing record-low six Knesset seats.

Israeli election

Gabbay said he would hold consultations with Labor MKs in the upcoming days "on pushing forward primary election for Labor Party chairman," as well as "other options."

"I will continue working for the Labor movement and the Israeli public, and on April 30 I will be sworn in as a Knesset member and serve the public from the opposition," he added. 

5:20 P.M. Meretz chairwoman meets election panel following reports of voter fraud

Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg intends to discuss reports of irregularities and "possible political intervention" in vote count with the Central Elections Committee, her party announces as she is on her way to the committee's headquarters in Jerusalem.

"We've received reports on political officials, including a United Torah Judaism representative ... putting immense pressure" on election officials, Meretz said.

5:16 P.M. Lawmaker urges attorney general investigation into Likud hidden cameras

Hadash-Ta'al MK Aida Touma-Sliman calls on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to "launch an urgent investigation into the involvement of the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in funding and inserting hidden cameras to polling stations in Arab communities."

In a letter to Mendelblit, Touma-Sliman calls the Likud's controversial more "an attempt at suppressing Arab citizens' right to vote," adding it mounts to "clear incitement against Arab citizens."

5:05 P.M. Labor chairman considering stepping down, party sources say

Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay considers stepping down, party sources who spoke to him about the matter said. However, he doesn't intend on resigning as a Knesset member, and only looking at his position as party leader, following its poor showing in the election.

Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya'alon at a press conference, Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019.
Meged Gozani

"He's debating whether he should back off and appoint an interim chairman, wait for the primary [election] set to take place within 14 months or work to push forward the election," one of the sources said. "I think he understands very well that his role as chairman is over."

A Labor MK told Haaretz that party members "are waiting for Gabbay to announce resignation on his own. ... No one is making any public statements against him."

"The fault over [the party's] failure in the election isn't all his, but if he doesn't make conclusions on his own, we'll show him the way out," the MK added.

4:23 P.M. Prominent Labor lawmaker calls for union with Meretz, centrist bloc

MK Shelly Yacimovich, fifth on the Labor Party's slate, has called on other members of her party to consider joining forces with either left-wing Meretz or form a centrist bloc with other parties, seeing Labor's poor showing in the election.

In a Facbook post, she said she "has no affection for" forming a broad alliance "like the Democratic party in the U.S., but it's something we must look into as part of our political soul-searching." This, Yacimovich claims, may allow Labor "take back" the reigns of government.

"We also have another option," she added. "Form pointed, clear opposition, that certainly doesn't correspond to the extreme right, but not the extreme center, either. This option demands of us corageous inspection ... of a merger with Meretz. ... Let's face it, there's many similarities."

3:55 P.M. Central Election Committee says technical glitch delayed publication of results 

The Central Election Committee stated that a minor computer malfunction led Thursday morning to a delay in the publication of the final election results.

The malfunction led to wrong data being inserted regarding the votes cast in double-sealed envelopes (those that contain the votes of diplomats abroad, patients in hospitals, doctors and nurses on call, prisoners, police officers and prison guards, polling booth secretaries and disabled people).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara wave as Netanyahu speaks at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019.
Ammar Awad/Reuters

According to sources in the committee, "there is no mistake in the count of the votes cast in double-sealed envelopes, only in how they were inserted into the system. The malfunction led to only some of the date being processed and as a result the display of the results was wrong." 

The malfunction has since been fixed and now the committee is re-inserting the data. The final results are expected to be published shortly. 

12:46 P.M. Right-wing bloc in the lead with 64 Knesset seats

The latest vote tally shows that the right-wing bloc leads over the center-left bloc by eight seats. The Likud and Kahol Lavan are still tied with each getting 35 Knesset seats. 

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party gets eight seats, United Torah Judaism gets seven. Arab union Hadash-Ta'al get six seats, the Labor party gets five and former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's
Yisrael Beiteinu receives five seats. 

Left-wing party Meretz gets five seats, and so does the Union of the Right-wing Parties. Both United Arab List-Balad and Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu get four seats. 

Orly Levi Abekasis' Gesher, Moshe Feiglin's Zehut and Hayamin Hehadash don't pass the electoral threshold.

11:12 A.M. Central Election Committee announces vote count is over

The Central Election Committee announced that the vote count has officially finished but that it had to check the data before it publishes official results.

11:10 A.M. Ayelet Shaked says party 'is optimistic' despite indication it might not enter Knesset

Hayamin Hehadash co-chair Ayelet Shaked responded to reports her party might not pass the electoral threshold according to the latest vote count. "We are optimistic, the reports were good, we have to wait for the final results by the Central Election Committee."

10:00 A.M. Hayamin Hehadash calls for a recount

Hayamin Hehadash is calling for a full recount. "We will not allow political tricks at the polls to work," the party said. According to Hayamin Hehadash, a series of disturbances in the management of the polls led to the problematic vote count, interfering with party observers, the soldiers' votes that granted another seat and the mishaps with the committee's website.

09:45 A.M. Elsewhere in the Middle East: A Revolution

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for 30 years, has been ousted by the army following months of anti-government protests. Updates here

09:35 A.M. Hayamin Hehadash fails to pass electoral threshold

After an initial vote count indicated otherwise, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party failed to pass the electoral threshold, leaving it out of the next Knesset. 

An announcement by the Central Elections Committee, which has almost finished its official count of all the votes, released contradictory information, leading to confusion about whether Hayamin Hehadash passed the required 3.25 percent to join the Israeli parliament.

According to the most recent announcement by the committee, Hayamin Hehadash fell short by about 1,000 votes. Meanwhile, Meretz gained a seat, bringing it up to five, at the expense of United Torah Judaism, which is left with seven seats.

Wednesday

11:18 P.M. Meretz wouldn't be in Knesset without Arab voters

Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg says without the Arabs, her party would not have made it past the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.

Meretz narrowly made it into the Knesset, garnering four Knesset seats, down from its current five. Arab voters accounted for one of Meretz’s four seats.

Since October 2000, when police suppressed widespread Arab riots with live fire, killing 13 protesters, Arab voters largely switched to voting for Arab parties, but appear to have returned to Meretz on Tuesday.

“This is major drama,” Zandberg said. “In the previous election, we got 12,000 votes in Arab towns and another 2,000 to 3,000 in mixed cities. This time, we got 35,000 votes in Arab towns and almost 40,000 in total.” Of those, 8,000 votes came from Druze villages.

The party was more attractive to Arabs this time in part because its top five Knesset candidates included one Arab and one Druze.

“For Meretz, Jewish-Arab partnership is a political card to play,” Zandberg said. "From now on, the left must rely on it more significantly … If the center-left doesn’t create partnerships with the Arab community, it can’t return to power.”

10:45 P.M. Arab parties worried final vote count could lose them a seat

While current counting appears to place both Arab slates above the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, Arab parties are concerned that once the double-sealed envelopes come in, the Balad-United Arab List might drop beneath the threshold. 

The double-sealed envelopes are those of votes of soldiers, prisoners, diplomats, state employees living abroad, representatives of Zionist organizations living abroad, people in hospitals, and battered women in shelters who cannot vote in regular polling stations. 

The Arab turnout on Tuesday was one of the lowest in history, at less than 50 percent.

Balad head Jamal Zahalka expressed disappointment, saying: "We didn't thoroughly understand the levels of frustration and anger."

Hadash-Ta'al is worried that once the last votes are counted, it could lose its sixth seat.

"We respect the voters' choice, and it requires us to look internally and reflect," MK Saeed Alkharumi said. "We failed to bring voters to the polling stations."

10:20 P.M. Kahlon mulling joining Likud, giving it 39 seats

Kulanu's Moshe Kahlon says he does not rule out joining Likud so that he would transfer his 4 seats to Likud, giving it 39 seats.

If Kahlon maintains his party's independence, his party members will be able to vote on laws without being subject to party discipline. 

>> Read more: How Netanyahu won the election ■ Left wakes up to darker day ■ Netanyahu's next coalition: Annexation for immunity from indictment ■ Arab parties need to do soul-searching ■ Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs in 2015 proved a big success in 2019 election ■ Opinion: Time we admit Israel is a dictatorship

9:06 P.M. PR firm boasts of hidden camera scheme, lowering Arab voter turnout

An Israeli public relations company headed by a settler leader boasted Wednesday that it was behind the Likud initiative to place 1,200 hidden cameras in Arab polling stations on Election Day. The firm added that it was to thank for the historically low turnout among Arab voters. 

"Thanks to us placing observers in every polling station we managed to lower the voter turnout to under 50 percent, the lowest in recent years!" the PR company, Kaizler Inbar, posted on Facebook.

Arab-majority slate Hadash-Ta’al told Haaretz that, "as soon as the cameras were discovered, there were riots and confrontations, halting the voting process at some stations." According to the slate, "the situation caused fear among many voters, who were afraid to get to the polling sites — which was the intention of Likud and the camera operators.” Read more.

8:30 P.M Union for Reform Judaism concerned right-wing government will deepen discrimination  

The Union for Reform Judaism, which represents the largest Jewish stream in North America, released a statement congratulating Prime Minister Netanyahu for his election victory and expressed fears over the religious, right-wing government to be established by Netanyahu.

“The Israeli elections show that the country is divided on issues of critical importance to the future of the country,” the statement said. “We congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu even as we continue to speak out for the enduring Jewish values of justice and equality.”

The organization also said that “we have deep concern that the new government will deepen the discrimination against the non-orthodox streams of Judaism, continue to undermine the democratic values and institutions of Israel, and discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel. 

“We join our Israeli partners in the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism in demanding that the government represent all of Israel’s citizens.” The organization also noted that “we are especially concerned by the statements made by Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of the election calling for  annexation of West Bank Jewish settlements, a unilateral move that would make a two-state solution impossible and render the Jewish democratic state untenable.”

7:40 P.M. Gantz concedes defeat, Lapid vows to turn Knesset into battlefield

Gantz conceded defeat on Wednesday evening, saying that Kahol Lavan "accepts the nation's decision." Referring to President Reuven Rivlin's role in choosing which leader forms the next government, Gantz said "we all respect and accept the president's decision and whatever comes of it."

According to Gantz, "we got an exceptional result... We established a real governmental alternative." The former army chief added: "Netanyahu collected the extremists, cannibalized his partners, and this is the result we got."

Speaking before Gantz, Kahol Lavan co-chair Yair Lapid said his party will make Likud's life miserable from the opposition. "Part of having the DNA of the governing party is never giving up, the Knesset will be a battlefield," Lapid said. 

7:15 P.M. Only one in four Knesset members are women

Out of the 65 members who are likely to make up the next Israeli government only 13 are women – and out of the total of 120 Knesset members, only one quarter, or 30, are women.

Ten out of the 13 women in the government come from Likud, while only three hail from the other five parties, since the two largest parties by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's side, both ultra-Orthodox parties, ban women from joining their slate.

Out of the 55 seats in the center-left bloc, 17 are women, including 10 out of 35 for Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan. Some prominent women's activists have been pushed out, partly because of the the blow dealt to the left-wing parties. These include Labor's Merav Michaeli, Yesh Atid's Aliza Lavie and Habayit Hayehudi's Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.

5.50 P.M. Far-right leader: If Netanyahu embraces Trump's plan, we're out

MK Bezalel Smotrich, formerly of Habayit Hayehudi, says his Union of Right-Wing Parties is a natural partner to Benjamin Netanyahu but that his party will not be part of a government that establishes a Palestinian state.

"He can mull over Trump's plan," Smotrich says, "but if he promotes it he won't have a right-wing government."

The far-right Union of Right Wing Parties is an alliance of right-wing parties including Kahanist Otzma Yehudit that received five Knesset seats in Tuesday's election and immediately said it would recommend Netanyahu as prime minister. 

Smotrich added: "I'm a liberal, anyone can think what they want but the policy of the government we'll be part of will be right-wing. I won't be party to negotiations about a plan that ends up establishing a terror state in the heart of Israel. I won't take Gaza and expand it twenty-fold... We will not be part of a government that establishes a Palestinian state."

4:34 P.M. Trump: Netanyahu's victory is a good sign for peace

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Netanyahu's re-election was a good sign for peace. Trump made the remark to reporters at the White House. 

Meanwhile, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said the administration’s plan for Middle East peace will be released “in the very near future.” 

Bolton didn’t provide an exact date. He made the comment during an interview on a right-wing radio program on Wednesday, hours after it became apparent that Netanyahu had won another term in office.

3:36 P.M. Iranian President Hassan calls the Israeli election 'meaningless'

Iranian President Hassan Rohani called the Israeli election "meaningless," adding that if one was to hold real elections in the area, Palestinians, not the occupiers, should be the ones going to the polls.

Rohani also described the recent American decision to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "foreign terrorist organization" as a calculated boost to Netanyahu ahead of the elections.

13:52 P.M. Party recommendations for prime minister will be broadcast live

President Reuven Rivlin announced that the discussions in which the Knesset factions give their recommendations for who will form the next government will be broadcast live. The statement from the president said the round of consultations with the parties in advance of forming the government will take place next week.

13:10 P.M. The fraud concerns Likud claims were the reason behind hidden cameras could have been solved in advance, election committee chairman says

Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Central Elections Committee and Supreme Court justice, told Kan Bet Public Radio that if Likud had updated him about placing hidden cameras at polling places in Arab towns, there could have been another way to address the party’s concerns.

He added that Likud brought in their body cameras “against the backdrop of the complaints, which sadly are not baseless, that at specific polling places they threatened voters who would vote a certain way and are also offering inappropriate suggestions that are connected to voting.” He added that there could have been an alternative: “They thought there was no way to document it with cameras, I allowed [documentation] not with cameras but by taping the conversation. I made a balance.”

In the interview, Melcer also suggested the Knesset draft a new law that would organize social media activities during election campaigns, adding that it has a precedent in a decades-old law. According to the judge, at his urging, anonymity in online political posts was reduced by 70 percent. He declined to discuss foreign attempts to influence the election.

12:59 P.M. Uncounted double-sealed ballots may tip election results

There still remain a potential 300,000 uncounted ballots in double-sealed envelopes – equal to about 8 Knesset seats. They will be counted on Wednesday and Thursday, and may dramatically change the election results.

These comprise votes of soldiers, prisoners, diplomats, state employees living abroad, representatives of Zionist organizations living abroad, people in hospitals, and battered women in shelters.

In this election, counting the double-sealed envelopes could make a dramatic difference, and can push Hayamin Hehadash into the Knesset, while threatening the current standing of United Arab List–Balad and Meretz parties.

Hayamin Hehadash, led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, got 3.14% of votes whereas the electoral threshold stands at 3.25%. It is likely that they will get significant support from soldiers, pushing them over the threshold.

Meretz, which received 3.64% of votes, also usually gets higher support from voters in this category than it does by the general public. According to calculations made by Meretz, it's possible that they would even gain one Knesset seat at the expense of Labor. UAL–Balad will likely suffer most from counting of the double-sealed envelopes, and currently hovers over the electoral threshold with just 3.46% of votes. 

12:42 P.M. Austrian Chancellor congratulates Netanyahu

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz congratulated Netanyahu on Twitter for "an excellent showing in yesterday's national elections … You have – once again – gained the trust of the people of Israel in record numbers. I am looking forward to working with you in the future, for the benefit of the people of Israel and the people of Austria."

12:47 P.M. Election committee says voting abnormalities are due to mistake in database

The Central Election Committee said it made a mistake and accidentally entered voting eligibility data from 2015 to the website showing live election results.

Earlier Wednesday it was reported that certain locations had a voter turnout higher than 100%. In the settlement of Brukhin, turnout appeared to be 167% and in the Bedouin village of Bir Haj, turnout appeared to be 117%. The committee said the issue is being resolved. 

12:20 P.M. Lieberman in, Bennett out: Winners and losers in the 2019 Israeli election | Analysis

Benjamin Netanyahu couldn't have hoped for better results. Every element that had been a problem for him was diminished or eliminated outright, and his dream of serving as prime minister under indictment seems increasingly realistic. All the 35 seats in the Knesset that the Likud won will be manned by people who line up to laud his brilliance and talent. Given the results, even Gideon Sa'ar and Haim Katz will toe his line. Read the full analysis here

12:00 P.M. Israeli election results show it's time for Arab parties to do some soul-searching | Analysis

Whether or not the Ra'am-Balad party passes the threshold and makes it into Israel's 21st Knesset, all the Arab parties, along with all those who claim to represent Arab society in Israel, need to do some soul-searching.

For the 2015 election, the Arab parties merged to form the Joint List, and that united front reaped 13 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. But the alliance didn't hold, for the simple reason that the four parties comprising it - Hadash, Ra'am, Ta'al and Balad - couldn't find a way to cooperate in practice. Read the full analysis here

11:07 A.M. Netanyahu's next coalition: Annexation for immunity from indictment | Analysis

The election held in Israel on April 9 was a public referendum on whether Benjamin Netanyahu should continue to lead the Israeli government. He won hands-down, with a large parliamentary faction of Likud behind him.

The Israeli public handed a clear majority to the right and Netanyahu can easily form a coalition with the Likud's "natural partners," as he promised throughout his campaign. Read the full analysis here

10:45 A.M. Chair of right-wing union: We will demand the justice and education ministries

Leader of the Right-wing Union Rafi Peretz said that his far-right coalition, which includes Kahanists, will demand both the justice and education minister positions. "We want to continue the road taken by Habayit Hayehudi," he said in a radio interview. "[Bezalel] Smotrich will naturally deal with judicial matters, and I will deal with education."

Peretz added that he is not content with the results, which saw Hayamin Hehadash party falling below the electoral threshold, and said that uniting with Kahane followers saved the religious zionist camp. 

10:24 A.M. Hayamin Hehadash is 4,300 votes short of entering the Knesset

After counting more than 95% of votes, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party is just 4,300 votes short of passing the electoral threshold. The standing difference between the right-wing party and United Arab List-Balad - who currently passes the threshold - is 8,400 votes. 

Now being counted are double-sealed envelopes for people who did not vote in their designated polling station, including soldiers and diplomats. 

10:04 A.M. Palestinian Liberation Organization: Israelis chose to entrench and expand apartheid

A statement by PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said that, "Regrettably, Israelis overwhelmingly voted for candidates that are unequivocally committed to entrenching the status quo of oppression, occupation, annexation and dispossession in Palestine and escalating the assault on Palestinian national and human rights. They have chosen an overwhelmingly rightwing, Xenophobic and anti-Palestinian parliament to represent them. Israelis chose to entrench and expand apartheid."

The statement added, "The extremist and militaristic agenda, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has been emboldened by the Trump administration’s reckless policies and blind support... The Palestinian people will overcome this dark and highly dangerous chapter and remain deeply rooted in our homeland."

9:37 A.M. Lieberman: I'll either join a Likud government or stay in opposition

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday he would not recommend Benny Gantz to the president to form a coalition. Speaking to the Ynet news site, the former defense minister said such a scenario "doesn't exist."

Lieberman said his party would either join a government led by Netanyahu or stay in the opposition. "It needs to be understood that Smotrich and Rabbi Peretz are no less Orthodox than Shas and United Torah Judaism," he said, referring to the leaders of the Union of Right-Wing Parties. "We won't give up our principles, our agenda is clear," said Lieberman, who ran on a secular, right-wing platform which included mandatory army conscription for the ultra-Orthodox.

9:25 A.M. Feiglin: 'The privileged left stopped me from passing the electoral threshold'

Chair of messianic pro-marijuana Zehut party Moshe Feiglin said on Wednesday morning that a number of factors contributed to his party's poor election results. He accused far-right parties, the rabbis of Council of Jewish Settlements Yesha Council, Meretz, Haaretz newspaper and the "privileged left" of having attacked his campaign.

In polls, Feiglin's party was predicted to win five Knesset seats, but with 95% of votes counted, it fails to pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold. 

9:21 A.M. Bennett hangs hope on still uncounted votes of Israeli soldiers

Co-chair of Hayamin Hehadash party Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday morning that he is waiting for the counting of votes by Israeli soldiers, hoping that they will raise his party above the 3.25-percent electoral threshold. 

"All my life I gave everything I had for this good nation. I have always been a soldier of this country. As a fighter in Sayeret Matkal, as a high-tech entrepreneur, as a minister of education and in the security cabinet during Operation Pillar of Defense," Bennet said. "Now it's time for the soldiers to decide whether I will continue fighting for them."

8:56 A.M. Nearly all right-wing parties declare they will recommend Netanyahu to form coalition

Nearly all right-wing parties declared Tuesday they will recommend Benjamin Netanyahu to President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government.

Kulanu, the Union of Right-Wing Parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism together got 25 Knesset seats. With Likud – who received 35 Knesset seats - the right-wing bloc would achieve the minimum 60 Knesset seats required for forming a coalition... Read the full story here

8:55 A.M. Benny Gantz: It's looking bleak, but electoral shift is possible

Benny Gantz wrote his party members Wednesday morning: "It's looking bleak but the results are not yet final. It's possible that there will be electoral shifts, and that we can make certain political moves."

Gantz said that his voters wanted hope and were given hope. "They wanted a different way and we showed it to them. We will not back down from our public duty to represent over a million people who asked us for something different. It's an unprecedented historical victory. We should be proud."

5:52 A.M. 94 percent of votes counted; Likud and Kahol Lavan get 35 Knesset seats each 

With 94 percent of the votes counted, Likud and Kahol Lavan are tied at 35 seats each, but the right-wing bloc gets 65 seats in total.

Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have eight seats each, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties five, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu four.

Among center-left parties, Labor gets six seats, as does Arab-majority Hadash-Ta'al. Meretz has four seats, and United Arab List-Balad barely makes it over the 3.25-percent electoral threshold, securing four Knesset seats.

Moshe Feiglin's Zehut, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash and Orly Levi-Abekasis' Gesher fail to enter the Knesset. 

5:18 A.M. Netanyahu and Gantz neck in neck but right-wing bloc still likelier to form government

With 93 percent of the votes counted, Likud gets 37 Knesset seats while Kahol Lavan gets 36 seats. The right-wing bloc garners altogether 67 seats, making it likelier for them to form the next coalition.

Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, both likely to back Netanyahu as next prime minister, have eight seats each.

Labor and Arab-majority Hadash-Ta'al have six seats each, and right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Union of Right-Wing Parties and Meretz all have five.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu gets four seats.

United Arab List-Balad is just dozens of votes short of passing the 3.25-percent electoral threshold. Moshe Feiglin's Zehut, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash and Orly Levi-Abekasis' Gesher also fail to enter the Knesset. 

4:10 A.M. With most votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud maintains lead

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party gets 37 out of 120 Knesset seats, according to partial results in Israel's general election. With 79 percent of the votes counted, Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan is only slightly behind with 36 seats.

Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, both likely to back Netanyahu as next prime minister, have eight and seven seats, respectively.

Right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, as well as left-wing Labor, both have six seats.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu, Meretz, the Union of Right-Wing Parties and Arab-majority Hadash-Ta'al all have five seats.

Moshe Feiglin's Zehut, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash, Orly Levi-Abekasis' Gesher and United Arab List-Balad all fail to enter the Knesset. 

3:30 A.M. Results begin to emerge, 64 percent of the votes have been counted 

Results of Israel's election began to emerge, with 64 percent of the votes counted. According to the votes counted thus fur, Netanyahu's Likud is in the lead with 38 Knesset seats, while Gantz's Kahol Lavan comes in second with 35 Knesset seats. 

Religious party Shas is standing to gain eight seats, while United Torah Judaism receives seven. Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu gets six seats, as well as Labor Party, while Kulanu, Union of the Right-Wing Parties, Meretz and Hadash-Ta'al all receive five seats. 

Moshe Feiglin's Zehut, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash, Orly Levi-Abekasis' Gesher and United Arab List-Balad all fail to enter the Knesset. 

2:11 A.M. Netanyahu in celebratory speech: 'This is a night of great victory'

"We love you," Netanyahu told Likud supporters in a victory speech he held after exit polls showed his party has likely won the election. "23 years ago it was the first time Sara [his wife] and myself stood here, and here we return because of you and for you." 

"This is a night of great victory," Netanyahu said to a standing ovation. 

"I operate day and night for you, for the country, for our land," he added. "You earned an almost unfathomable feat in the face of biased media and under impossible conditions," he extolled Israelis who voted for his Likud party. 

"The right-wing bloc will continue to lead Israel for the next four years," he added. 

01:55 A.M. Updated exit polls show Likud overtaking Kahol Lavan by one seat  

The most recent exit polls still gave advantage to the right-wing bloc, showing that it is likely to garner 63-65 Knesset seats, while the center-left bloc has 55-57 seats, with the Likud overtaking Kahol Lavan by just one seat. 

According to both exit polls by Channel 13 News and Channel 12 News, the Likud will snag 35 Knesset seats. 

Both exit polls also showed that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party did not pass the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party is going to receive four Knesset seats, the exit polls indicated, while the United Arab List-Balad, which was at risk of not making it into the Knesset, will get four to six seats as well. 

The exit polls also predicted that Orly Levi-Abekasis' Gesher party as well as Moshe Feiglin's Zehut party will fail to enter the Knesset.

1:43 A.M. Turnout at 67.9 percent as polls close, down from 2015

Voter turnout stands at 67.9 percent as of 10 P.M., when polls closed — down from 72.33 percent in 2015.

1:38 A.M. 12 Takeaways from Israel's looniest election that Netanyahu just won. Or is it Gantz? | Analysis

Based on initial exit polls, both Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu can point to historic achievements in Tuesday’s election. Gantz came out of nowhere and within a few short months set up a political party that is now inches away from power. Netanyahu overcame natural fatigue from his decade in power, three criminal indictments, a looming submarine scandal and the wholesale enlistment of his rivals. Although the jury is still out, the exit polls indicate that Netanyahu is within striking distance of a fourth straight term in office, during which he will pass David Ben-Gurion on way to become Israel’s longest ruling prime minister. Read the full analysis here (Chemi Shalev)