By COLlive reporter
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Tuesday night “major victory” in the country’s national elections that saw him attacked from home and abroad.
“Against all odds: A great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook status. Pre-election polls gave Labor a clear lead over Likud.
But when the country woke up on Wednesday morning they discovered his win was even larger than expected: His Likud party scored a major advantage over the left wing Zionist Union led by Issac Herzog.
A count of 99 percent of the ballot boxes had Likud with 29 seats and Zionist Union with 24, Ynet News reported.
Netanyahu will have to rely on smaller parties among the Knesset’s pool of 120 members to create a coalition. The parties interested in Netanyahu standing at the helm for the next 4 years have an easy majority.
The Joint Arab List placed third behind the two major parties with 14 seats ahead of Yesh Atid’s 11 seats. Former Likudnik Moshe Kahlon‘s centrist Kulanu received 10 seats in the count.
Naftali Bennet, whose religious right-wing party Bayit Yehudi began the election cycle with a lead of 17 seats, only maintained its 8 seats. Yisrael Beytenu ended with six seats, United Torah Judaism and Shas at 7, Meretz dropping to 4.
Yachad, founded by former Shas leader Eli Yishai and hoping to be a home for the haredi right, did not pass the election threshold of 3.25 percent.
This dramatic election has been very much about Netanyahu’s character and leadership. Most visibly was his speech to Congress about the danger of a nuclear Iran that was publicly contested by the White House.
President Barack Obama‘s rocky relationship with Netanyahu over key issues –despite continuous cooperation between both countries– was brought front and center but didn’t seem to affect Netanyahu’s standing in Israel.
The Drudge Report website, in reporting about the election outcome, put it simply by writing “Bibi Stays” under a photo of a stern looking Obama. The White House already notified that it will work with whomever wins.
“The best campaigner of all did it again,” is how Yossi Verter, the Haaretz pundit, described Neyantahu’s journey which included a strong turn to the right, reversing his support for a Palestinian state.
Jonathan Tobin of Commentary magazine wrote: “Netanyahu appears to have survived and will likely surpass David Ben Gurion as the country’s longest serving prime minister.”
Comedian Mendy Pellin tweeted: “Obama has not given his concession speech yet. #BibiWins #IsraelElections.”
Barack Obama reacts to Netanyahu’s re-election pic.twitter.com/zINaDEfagr
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 17, 2015