With 99 percent of the votes counted in Israel's third and unprecedented election in one year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is currently the country's largest party. However, neither the premier nor his chief rival Benny Gantz are projected to get a clear Knesset majority behind them.
Netanyahu is currently three seats shy of a 61-seat majority in the Knesset. The Joint List, an Arab-majority alliance of factions, maintained its position as the Israeli parliament’s third-largest party, according to the latest count, whereas Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and left-wing alliance Labor-Gesher-Meretz lost ground.
Voting ended at 10 P.M. on Monday, and the final results will be delayed due to new procedures enacted for this election, as well as the issue of counting the ballots of voters quarantined for coronavirus.
>> Read more: Israel's election is over, so now what? The key dates to expect ■ Defections or unthinkable cooperation: Scenarios for the day after Israel's election ■ The tribe has spoken. We must respect its say | Gideon Levy ■ The night they tore old Israel down | Chemi Shalev ■ The two Benjamins are inching toward national unity | Anshel Pfeffer
9:33 A.M. 99 percent of vote counted: Right-wing bloc down to 58 seats, Kahol Lavan up to 33
Netanyahu's right-wing bloc is down to 58 seats, while Benny Gantz's Kahool Lavan gains one seat, standing at 33. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party goes down to nine seats, according to the results published by the Central Elections Committee after 99 percent of the vote have been counted.
8:32 A.M. Updated vote count: right-wing bloc at 59 seats, Joint List down to 15
With 96.7 percent of the vote counted, Netanyahu's right-wing bloc is up to 59 seats, two seats shy of a majority. The Joint List alliance of Arab-parties is down to 15 seats, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party is one seat up to 10.
7:41 A.M. Kahol Lavan MK says party will not form unity government with Netanyahu
In an interview with Israel Army Radio, Kahol Lavan MK Ofer Shelah said Wednesday morning that his party would not join a unity government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Shelah said that if the right-wing bloc stands at 59 seats at the end of the vote count, "we will work quickly to shape a bloc of 61 seats to oppose a Netanyahu-led government."
When asked about potential defectors from his party to Netanyahu’s Likud, Shelah said that the MKs in question “are doing everything they can to create a non-Netanyahu government."
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7:05 A.M. 94 percent of vote counted: Right-wing bloc earns 58 seats, Joint List gets 16
With 94.26 percent of the vote counted, Netanyahu's right-wing bloc wins 58 seats, with Likud garners 36 seats. Kahol Lavan follows with 32.
06:58 A.M. Updated vote count gives Likud an extra seat
With 93.65 percent of the votes counted, the results remain largely unchanged. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is now up to 36 out of 120 Knesset seats, at the expense of ultra-Orthodox party Shas, which is down to nine seats.
The Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc still has 58 seats, three shy of a clear majority.
00:07 A.M. 92.5 percent of the votes counted: Right-wing bloc down to 58 seats
Accroding to the latest tally of votes, after 92.51 percent of polling stations were counted, the Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc has 58 seats. Netanyahu's Likud party has lost one seat compared to previous results and is now standing at 35 out of 120 Knesset seats.
Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan now has 32 Knesset seats and the Arab-majority four-way alliance Joint List has 16, one up from previous results.
Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, both part of the right-wing bloc, have 10 and seven seats, respectively, and right-wing alliance Yamina six.
Both left-wing alliance Labor-Gesher-Meretz and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu have seven seats each.
10:50 P.M. Gantz order Kahol Lavan lawmaker to oversee final vote count
Benny Gantz has ordered senior Kahol Lavan member Avi Nissenkorn to "closely oversee" the Central Elections Committee's work, as its officials are counting the final votes, mainly from special polling stations.
This comes after Kahol Lavan officials have been made aware that Netanyahu had ordered Likud lawmakers to do the same.
8:00 P.M. 92 percent of the votes counted: Right-wing bloc has 59 Knesset seats
Israel's Central Election Committee has published the latest tally of the votes after checking 92 percent of the polling stations. According to the numbers released by the committee, the right-wing bloc has dropped to 59 Knesset seats compared to the 54 of the center-left bloc. The Likud maintains 35, while Kahol Lavan has 32. Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu has seven seats, while the Arab alliance Joint List remains the third-largest party with 15 seats.
7:24 P.M. Kahol Lavan co-leader Lapid: We won't sit in Netanyahu-led coalition
Lawmaker Yair Lapid of Kahol Lavan says he and his party will not sit in any coalition headed by Netanyahu.
6:35 P.M. Election committee says final results to be announced Wednesday night
Final results will be released on Wednesday night, or perhaps in the early hours of Thursday, the elections committee says, although these results will still be considered unofficial as they must be verified.
6:30 P.M. 340,000 additional ballots to be counted overnight
Some 340,000 ballots from those voting outside regular polling stations, such as soldiers, prisoners, hospital patients, and foreign diplomats, are to be counted overnight, the Election Committee says.
5:30 P.M. Joint List sources say there's no point discussing recommending PM candidate
The Joint List alliance of Arab parties has yet to decide whether they will recommend Gantz as prime minister, with sources saying that the issue is irrelvant as long as Netanyahu has a clear advantage over Gantz, as he appears to have based on results so far.
4:30 P.M. Netanyahu meets with right-wing party leaders; Likud suggests it's open to coalition with Lieberman
Netanyahu has met with the leaders of other parties that backed him in the previous election, with Likud issuing a statement that they had agreed to work together and would not rule out bringing into a coalition "parties recognizing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state" in an apparent reference to Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu.
Bibi went gunning for his only real rival
4:02 P.M. Yamina hopes to keep defense portfolio
The Yamina alliance of right-wing parties, projected to receive six or seven seats, have convened for their first meeting since the election. Party sources say results would be enough to give it two ministerial portfolios in the next coalition, down from the three it currently. A senior Yamina source has told Haaretz that the only goal is to head the defense and justice ministries.
3:52 P.M. Right-wing bloc leaders meet, call for government to be formed as soon as possible, do not rule out any Zionist parties
The leadership of the right-wing bloc - Netanyahu's Likud, religious zionist alliance Yamina, and ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism - met, and called on a government to be formed "as quickly as possible."
During the meeting, "it was also agreed that the government could include any parties that recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state." This would mean any party except the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, which is slated to remain the third largest political force in the Knesset.
"The people have spoken - they want a government headed by Netanyahu," the statement added.
12:26 P.M. Likud threatens Kahol Lavan lawmaker: Defect or we'll release embarrassing recordings
Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is threatening Kahol Lavan lawmaker Omer Yankelevich that if she will not defect to a Likud-led coalition, more embarrassing recordings by her party's former strategic adviser will be released to the media.
In a recording released last week, former Kahol Lavan adviser Yisrael Bachar is heard quoting Yankelevich as having said Benny Gantz is a "dumb loser unfit to be prime minister."
In recent days, Yankelevich has indirectly communicated to Likud that she is considering defecting. According to information obtained by Haaretz, Likud is holding onto additional recordings involving Yankelevich and is using these as a bargaining tool.
Likud denied the allegations. Yankelevich did not respond to a Haaretz query, but later tweeted "It's all rumors, not going to happen." (Read the full story here.)
11:15 A.M. Arab leader hails historic achievement
Chairman Ayman Odeh congratulated Joint List supporters for winning 15 seats out of 120 in the Knesset, according to results based on 90 percent of the vote.
"This is the biggest parliamentary achievement since the first Knesset in 1949," he said, referring to the record number of Arab lawmakers in the Israeli parliament. He also added that the Joint List was the only opposition party to rise in numbers since the September election.
"We must become the principled alternative to the Israeli political map. This is the beginning of the rise of a true left," he stated, calling on his supporters to not despair but rather continue working toward alliances based on values. The Arab public is the most disenfranchised in Israel, he said, but the Joint List from now on will be working to build relationships with all communities in Israel that face injustice.
10:57 A.M. Avigdor Lieberman says he'll act to prevent a fourth election
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who is considered the election kingmaker, says his party will wait until the final results on Thursday before delivering a decisive victory "to either side."
"We are not part of any bloc, we belong to the liberal, national right-wing and will act according to the national interests of the State of Israel," he said.
10:35 A.M. Likud with 36 seats, Kahol Lavan at 32 with 90 percent votes counted
With 90 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud retains a four-seat lead over Gantz's Kahol Lavan. The Joint List holds its 15 seats, followed by ultra-Orthodox Shas with 10.
With 59 seats, this leaves the right-wing bloc two seats shy from the necessary majority to form a government. The center-left bloc currently has 54 seats, and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu has 7.
10:11 A.M. With 81 percent votes counted, right-wing bloc has half the Knesset
Netanyahu's Likud wins 36 seats while Gantz's Kahol Lavan wins 31 seats, widening the gap between the two blocs to 60-53, according to 81 percent of votes.
The third-largest party is the Joint List with 15 seats. Ultra-orthodox parties Shas and UTJ get 10 and 8 seats respectively. Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu wins seven seats. Left-wing alliance Labor-Gesher-Meretz wins seven seats while right-wing alliance Yamina wins six seats.
9:25 A.M. With 72.2 percent votes counted, center-left bloc edges closer to right wing
Netanyahu's Likud holds 35 seats as Gantz's Kahol Lavan climbs up to 32 seats, closing the gap between the two blocs to 58-56.
The third-largest party is the Joint List with 17 seats. Ultra-orthodox parties Shas and UTJ get 9 and 8 seats respectively. Left-wing alliance Labor-Gesher-Meretz wins seven seats. Right-wing alliance Yamina and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu both get six seats.
9:03 A.M. Likud working to convince opposition lawmakers to defect
Likud spokesman Jonathan Urich says work has begun to convince lawmakers from the center-left bloc to defect and join a Likud-led coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. According to exit polls, the right-wing bloc is just two lawmakers short of a ruling majority.
8:50 A.M. 61.8 percent of votes counted: Likud keeps lead as Kahol Lavan edges closer
With 61.8 of votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud retained its lead of four seats over Kahol Lavan with 35 to 31, and the Arab-majority Joint List surges forward with 18 seats.
8:22 A.M. Likud MK says court wouldn't dare rule against Netanyahu premiership
Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar said he doesn't believe the High Court of Justice would "dare make a decision as outrageous" as ruling that an indicted prime minister cannot serve in office, referring to Netanyahu's indictment in three corruption cases for which he will stand trial starting March 17.
"The right-wing bloc and its lawmakers will never agree to such a thing," he said, adding that such a decision would be a slap in the face for the public.
7:45 A.M. Election committee says all votes counted, undergoing checks for accuracy
Israel's Central Elections Committee said that all of the votes had been counted, and results were in the process of verification, including looking into anomalies and statistical tests to ensure accuracy.
The election committee expects to publish the final results by late afternoon on Tuesday.
7:25 A.M. 34 percent of votes counted: Likud retains lead over Kahol Lavan
With 34 percent of votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud leads with 36 seats, while Gantz's Kahol Lavan earns 28 seats.
The Joint List is currently the third largest party with 15 seats, closely followed by United Torah Judaism with 11 and Shas with 10. Yamina and Labor-Gesher-Meretz stand at seven each, and Yisrael Beiteinu has six.
6:05 A.M. 17.7 percent of votes counted: Likud still in lead
With 17.7 percent of votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud leads with 37 seats, while Gantz's Kahol Lavan garners 30. 813,198 votes have been counted so far.
4:45 A.M. Netanyahu's Likud gets 39 seats, Gantz's Kahol Lavan 30, as 12.5 percent of the vote counted
Netanyahu's Likud wins 39 Knesset seats and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan 30 seats, as only 575,614 votes were tallied out of 4,581,811.
The Joint List, an Arab-majority alliance of factions, has so far garnered 14 seats, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party won 10, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism, and Labor-Gesher-Meretz slate received seven seats each, and far-right Yamina alliance got six seats.
2:33 A.M. Netanyahu's victory speech: We won against all odds, ties with Arab world are just 'the tip of the iceberg'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his victory speech at Likud headquarters, declaring, "This is a night of great victory."
"We won against all odds," Netanyahu said. "They eulogized us, but we prevailed. We made lemons into lemonade. We turned Israel into a superpower, we nurtured new connections with world leaders, including more leaders than you can even imagine in the Arab and Muslim world," Netanyahu said. "When I say that we will bring peace agreements with more Arab nations, it's not mere words. There are things in the works. This is only the tip of the iceberg."
"Throughout the campaign I've spoken about everything we intend to achieve in the coming years – applying sovereignty over our homeland in the Jordan valley," the prime minister said, referring to his controversial campaign promise to annex the territory.
"Earlier, I spoke with all the right-wing faction leaders, our natural partners. After I get some sleep, we'll start forming a broad national government," Netanyahu said.
1:40 A.M. Gantz addresses supporters: We must wait for the final results
Addressing supporters in Tel Aviv, Benny Gantz did not concede and asked supporters to wait for the final results. "I understand the feeling of disappointment," Gantz said, but added, "We will not give up on our principles and our path."
The Kahol Lavan leader thanked the thousands of activists and supporters for their support through "the nastiest election campaign in Israel's history," adding that "the State of Israel needs to heal, it needs unity, and reconciliation. We will continue to serve the public."
Gantz reminded supporters of Netanyahu's impending trial, set to begin on March 17. "Criminal proceedings can only be dealt with in the courtroom, and Netanyahu will stand trial for three severe offenses," Gantz said.
"I'm not afraid of a long journey," Gantz said, "I'm not afraid at all."
1:30 A.M. Israel said yes to Netanyahu’s message: Everything is allowed | Ravit Hecht
You had to be blind or ignorant about Likud voters to deny what that took shape in Israel over the last two weeks. Benjamin Netanyahu soared on the wings of a particularly nasty campaign, achieving the unbelievable: moving voters from the center-left bloc to his camp just before his impending trial... Read the full analysis here
1:17 A.M. The triumph of ideology over ambiguity | Aluf Benn
Israeli voters preferred parties and camps with a clear ideological message, and punished those that preferred ambiguity and equivocation. Likud and the Joint List, which according to the exit polls both added seats, conducted campaigns with clear positions which expressed a desire for change... Read the full analysis here
1:02 A.M. The night they tore old Israel down – and seven more comments on Netanyahu’s stunning triumph | Chemi Shalev
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a stunning victory in Monday’s elections, the sweetest and potentially most momentous in his long and illustrious career. He has fully justified his reputations as the all-time master magician, if not supreme sorcerer, of Israeli politics… Read the full analysis here
12:58 A.M. Updated exit polls: Netanyahu's right wing bloc two seats shy of ruling majority, Kahol Lavan up to 34 seats
Netanyahu's Likud was projected to win 37 Knesset seats out of 120, while Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party was up to 34 seats, according to the updated election exit poll released by Channel 13 News. The Arab Joint list got 14 seats. According to the polls, Netanyahu's right-wing bloc is two seats shy of a ruling majority.
Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu was down to six seats, while the Labor-Gesher-Meretz slate was up to seven. Yamina got 6 seats, ultra-Orthodox UTJ with 7 seats, and Shas with 9.
12:19 A.M. Litzman: "Lieberman failed tonight"
In his victory speech, Yaakov Litzman head of United Torah Judaism said, "Lieberman failed tonight," referring to the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman's campaign against religious rule in Israel. "It proved that anyone who raises a hand against the Sabbath and against the Torah will fail in the end," he said.
"We will meet with the prime minister tomorrow and we will ensure the establishment of a good coalition, with the guidance of the Chief Rabbinate," Litzman added.
12:02 A.M. Peretz: "I will continue being the responsible adult" of the left
Labor party leader Amir Peretz chided the Kahol Lavan campaign for being "irresponsible" and hurting the entire camp, but vowed to remain the "responsible adult of the peace camp."
"We are the peace camp, we are the equality camp, we are the social justice camp," the formerly mustachioed leader said, flanked by Orly Levy-Abekasis from the Gesher party and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz. "That was our way and so it will stay."
"We will wait for the final results and then continue to work to strengthen our path," Peretz added.
12:00 A.M. Central Elections Committee says final count could take longer than usual
The count could take longer due to new control procedures enacted for this election. The elections' authority expected to finish tallying all the votes on Wednesday, after which votes from special polling stations set up for people in isolation due to coronavirus quarantine will be counted.
By 6 A.M. on Tuesday, around 40 percent of actual votes should have been counted.
11:52 P.M. Final voter turnout at 71 percent, highest since 2015
As polls closed, final voter turnout stood at 0.6 percentage points over what it was in the September election, and 3.1 percentage points over the April contest.
11:45 P.M. Kahol Lavan defector Gadi Yevarkan says Likud got three seats thanks to Ethiopian community
“Kahol Lavan underestimated my intentions and the public that follows me,” Yevarkan, who is himself of Ethiopian origin, told Haaretz.
“Three seats came from the community,” he added. “They gave Netanyahu his victory, and they were the ones who took it from him in the last election. Netanyahu will never forget the community.”
11:40 P.M. Yamina leader and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett: "Proud we won... we will prevent a Palestinian state"
Naftali Bennett, who heads the religious Zionist alliance Yamina part of the right-wing bloc welcomed the victory, saying PM Netanyahu already called him.
"After a difficult year, and despite our disagreements, we managed to put together an amazing team," Bennett said, referring to tensions in the religious Zionist camp.
"We will prevent a Palestinian state," Bennett, who currently holds the defense portfolio in the Netanyahu government, added.
11:30 P.M. Shas leader Arye Dery: "We'll form government tomorrow"
"Tomorrow, the leaders of the right-wing bloc will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and we, with the help of God, will implement today's clear decision today and immediately establish a government headed by Netanyahu, a right-wing government," the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party leader told jubilant supporters.
11:15 P.M. Exit poll results analysis: Constitutional crisis looms
If Monday night’s exit polls are accurate or nearly accurate, half of the Israeli electorate voted for a man set to go on trial in two weeks for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. They did so fully knowing the charges against him. They voted for him because they trust him more than they trust Benny Gantz.
How did Bibi do it? The answer is simple. This is what he does. He doesn’t lie down after a setback. From the morning after the last election, he was already planning this election campaign. He knew that with 55 seats he wouldn’t be able to form a governing coalition, and his only option was to brazen things out and head for a third election. (Read Anshel Pfeffer's full analysis of the Israeli election exit polls.)
11:10 P.M. Gantz thanks supporters and voters
“Thanks to the thousands of activists and over a million voters who chose Kahol Lavan," Gantz tweeted. "I will keep fighting for you.”
11:05 P.M. Kahanist party chief Ben-Gvir says other leaders "not ready" for a real right-wing party
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit, which failed to make it into the Knesset according to exit polls, says other right-wing leaders “stabbed us in the back,” but “we ran a great campaign nonetheless.”
According to him, his party “challenges them. They’re not ready for a party that would force them to enact a right-wing policy.”
11:01 P.M. Lieberman slams ‘messianic’ right-wing bloc, won’t commit to position in coalition talks
"I looked at all exit polls, which are significantly different to all of the latest polls… Even when you look at the ultra-Orthodox, messianic bloc that got 60 seats … I think we’ll have to wait for the final results to assess the situation," Lieberman told supporters at party election headquarters.
"We should wait for the final results before reaching any final conclusions," he added. "We don’t intend to move even an inch from what we’ve promised our voters."
10:58 P.M. Joint List leader: Kahol Lavan failed because of "racist attitude"
Ayman Odeh, co-chairman of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, told Israel's Channel 12 that "Kahol Lavan failed because of their racist attitude toward us."
Although exit polls show the Joint List increased its Knesset presence by one or two seats, the atmosphere at headquarters is far from festive, due to the figures bringing Netanyahu closer to forming a government.
Odeh defined the achievement as historic in terms of representation for the Arab public, and he said the Arab community made a big step and answered the alliance's call to go out and vote.
10:45 P.M. Netanyahu tweets picture of himself celebrating "a great victory"
In the picture, behind Netanyahu's left shoulder, is Aaron Klein, Middle East bureau chief for alt-right U.S. news outlet Breitbart, who has been advising the Likud leader's public relations campaign.
10:23 P.M. Senior Kahol Lavan figure calls results a "failure"
"If these are the results, then yes, it's a failure," said MK Ofer Shelah, who holds the 8th spot on the centrist alliance's slate.
Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party said the prime minister spoke with the heads of all right-wing parties and agreed to form a "strong national government for Israel" as soon as possible.
Netanyahu is slated to deliver a "victory speech" at 11:45 P.M. local time, a spokesman told the media.
10:10 P.M. Netanyahu tweets 'thank you' with heart emoji
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tweeted "Thank you" in Hebrew, along with a red heart emoji.
10:00 P.M. Exit polls indicate Netanyahu surges past Gantz, but one seat shy of ruling majority
Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is predicted to win between 36 and 37 seats out of 120, followed by Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan with 32-33 seats, according to three exit polls published at the time voting ended in Israel.
According to the polls, Likud is one seat shy of a ruling majority. The right-wing and religious bloc is projected to win 60 seats while the center-left bloc is projected to win 52-54 seats. Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party is projected to have 6-8 seats.
The Joint List of Arab parties grew stronger and will be the third-largest party in the Knesset with 14-15 seats. The left-wing alliance Labor-Gesher-Meretz lost ground and is projected to win 6-7 seats.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties are projected to win 9 and 7-8 seats respectively. The Yamina alliance of right-wing parties headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is projected to win 6-7 seats.
Finally, the far-right Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit did not pass the 3.25-percent electoral threshold in any of the exit polls and will likely not enter the Knesset.
The exit polls were released by Kan public broadcasting's Channel 11 and Channels 12 and 13.
9:04 P.M. Voter turnout at 65.6 percent with an hour before the close of polling stations
The voter turnout stands at 65.6 percent as of 8 P.M., 1.9 percentage points higher than it was in the September election and the highest rate since 1999.
8:43 P.M. Eighty percent voter turnout in Israeli prisons
Polling stations in prisons across the country closed at 8 P.M. The voter turnout stood at 80 percent, higher than in previous years and higher than the national rate.