As of roughly 7:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, all three Israeli main TV channels predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would again head the new government, likely forming a coalition with his Likud party and other right-wing parties including Shas, United Torah, Yisrael Beitenu and United Right. With 66% of the vote counted, Likud was poised to gain 37 seats, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beitenu 6, and United Right 5, making a total of 63 seats. The Knesset has 120 seats, a minimum of 61 is needed to form a ruling coalition. Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu party, also said he would support Netanyahu; Kulanu was poised to win five seats.
Claiming victory, Netanyahu thanked the public “for putting their trust in me … and even greater trust than before.” Netanyahu stated, as reported by The Guardian, “I am very moved this night. This is a night of tremendous victory. Tremendous! God bless for keeping us and maintaining us to reach this time.”
Netanyahu then recited the Jewish prayer Shehechiyanu, which offers gratitude. He continued:
I don’t say that as lip service. I say that from the depth of my heart. Because a great sense of mission guides us. A great sense of mission guides me. I act day and night in your name, on your behalf, on behalf of our country, on behalf of our people, on behalf of our land!
I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. You brought us an achievement beyond imagination, a stupendous achievement, almost incomprehensible. You brought an enormous achievement, incomprehensible, despite a hostile media under impossible conditions, and the Likud grew dramatically. This is a stunning achievement.
And I want to also tell you something personal. I am very moved that the people of Israel again put its faith in me, for the fifth time and even greater faith. I tell you: it again put its faith in me, and for us and for me, this is unprecedented. When before did we ever get so many seats? I don’t remember. According to the majority of the exit polls, the right-wing bloc led by the Likud will continue to lead the State of Israel in the next four years. And will continue to march the State of Israel toward new heights.
I believe, so I was taught, by my late father Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, and so he was taught by my grandfather of blessed memory, Rabbi Natan Milikowsky Netanyahu, I believe that the Holy One Blessed Be He and history have given the Jewish people another opportunity, a golden opportunity, to turn our country into a strong nation, one of the strongest nations of the world and it is to that end that I do what I do. A strong country, a country in which it is good to live, a country that it is good and safe to live in, for our sake and for the sake of the coming generations, for the sake of the eternal Israel.
I want to tell you that we have a long night ahead of us, perhaps also a long day, and we will wait for the final results… And together, all of us worked as one person, until the last minutes before the polling stations closed, to awaken our public and bring them to the polls, in order to win the battle.
All of you, without exception, brought a lot of heart and soul to the difficult battle. And each and every one of you has an important share in this great achievement. Thank you very much.
Tonight, I already began talks with the leaders of the right wing parties, our natural partners. Tonight, almost all of them already declared publicly that they would recommend that I form the next government, recommend me to our president. I intend to finish the work quickly, with the aim of forming a stable national government.
Now I want to make it clear: It will be a right-wing government. But I intend to be the prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens: right wing and left wing, Jews and non-Jews alike, all of Israel’s citizens. For I care for everyone. I care for the soldiers of us all, you know that. I care for the security of us all, you know that. I care for our country, you know that too. That’s how it has been, and that’s how it will be.
Great achievements can be credited to us. It’s not always published, to say the least. But the public is smart, the public knows, the public see. Great achievements are credited to us, but I want to tell you, great challenges also stand before us. In security, in economics, in society, in foreign relations; security challenges and also challenges for normalization and peace with the Arab world. This is happening. It is happening even as we speak. Great challenges in all fields. I am certain that with joint efforts we will overcome all these challenges. For that reason I would like once again to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Netanyahu’s chief opponent, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, had given a victory speech prior to Netanyahu’s; he stated, “I will be the prime minister of everyone and we intend to unite everyone. … The road is very, very long, the moments of joy are many. We will not make them too early, and especially we will remember the great responsibility that is placed upon us — responsibility to form a government that will serve the State of Israel and not itself.”
Final results will be announced on Thursday; the following week President Reuven Rivlin will ask a party to build the next coalition.