Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, has failed to clinch an outright majority for his Likud party and other rightwing allies, as exit polls broadcast by Israeli news channels show the bloc garnering less than 61 seats.
Likud won 33 seats, and the opposition Blue and White Party will win 34 seats, Channel 11 said, while two other channels said they were neck-and-neck. One Likud ally, an anti-Arab party called Jewish Power, did not cross the election threshold, Channel 11 said.
That leaves Mr Netanyahu’s political future in the hands of Avigdor Lieberman, a long-term ally who broke with the four-time prime minister over concessions granted to the ultraorthodox minority, including exempting their men from mandatory military service. His party, Yisrael Beiteinu, likely won 8 seats, the TV channel said. Another channel said he would win 10 seats.
Official results will be published in the next few hours, and the exit polls have traditionally had a margin of error of as many as four seats.
Mr Lieberman has emerged as a kingmaker and has said he would prefer to see a unity government between Blue and White and Likud that would leave the ultraorthodox on the sidelines.