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Israeli ex-PM Netanyahu takes lead in election — exit polls

Benjamin Netanyahu. File Photo

Jerusalem, Israel | Xinhua | Exit polls from Israel’s parliamentary elections suggested Tuesday that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc has a good chance of making a comeback after the country’s fifth elections since 2019.

Exit polls of three main Israeli TV channels indicated that the long-time leader and his alliance of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties won 61-62 seats in the 120-seat parliament, suggesting they have enough seats to form a ruling coalition government.

Speaking with supporters at his campaign headquarters, Netanyahu said the early results are “a good start,” and called the supporters to wait for the final results. Exit polls suggested his Likud party won 30 to 31 seats.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party was projected to gain 22-24 seats and his wider alliance to secure 54 to 55 seats, according to the exit polls.

Lapid said early Wednesday that it was too early to make conclusions about the final outcome. “Nothing is decided” until the last vote is counted, said Lapid. Neither Netanyahu nor Lapid has claimed victory yet.

The polls also showed that ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Religious Zionism won 14-15 seats, becoming Israel’s third-largest party. Bezalel Smotrich, chairman of the Religious Zionist Party, tweeted that the party “made history.” The pro-settler leader wrote: “This is the day God made a revelation and we rejoice in it.”

Hadash-Ta’al, an alliance of two Arab parties that doesn’t support either of the blocs, is projected to win four seats, exit polls indicated.

The elections were held after repeated elections with inconclusive results that have paralyzed the Israeli political system for almost four years.

In a statement Tuesday, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) slammed the elections, noting that it “will not confer on Israel any legitimacy.”

No matter who wins the elections, “Israel will remain a permanent occupation power on the Palestinian land,” Hamas spokesman in Gaza Abdul Latif al-Qanou said in the statement.

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