Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Triumph In Israeli Elections After Last-Minute Lurch To The Right

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defied expectations to win the country's elections in a dramatic result that followed a last-minute lurch to the right.

Isaac Herzog, who heads the opposition Zionist Union and appeared poised to win at one point, called Netanyahu on Wednesday morning to offer congratulations for his election victory.

Netanyahu, who made a dramatic turn to the right the day before the polls opened, saying he no longer supported a Palestinian state, tweeted he had won "against all odds".

Netanyahu's Likud appeared to have earned 30 out of parliament's 120 seats and was in a position to be able to build with relative ease a coalition government with its nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.

The Zionist Union won 24 seats. Herzog, who just days ago appeared poised to win, signaled that he would be heading the opposition.

Speaking to reporters outside his Tel Aviv home, Herzog said that Israel now needed "another voice, a voice that offers an alternative and a voice that tells it the truth.".

The final results, as reported by Haaretz, showed Likud won 30 seats while the Zionist Union came in second with 24 seats.

The Jerusalem Post reported the following results:

The parties that follow are Joint Arab List (14); Yesh Atid (11); Kulanu (10); Bayit Yehudi (8); Shas (7); United Torah Judaism (6); Yisrael Beytenu (6); and Meretz (4).

Eli Yishai's far-right Yahad party has thus far failed to make the cut, though it has hovered near the minimum threshold throughout.

Pre-election polls published on Friday showed the Zionist Union in the lead.

This prompted Netanyahu to promise on Monday that if he remained in power, no Palestinian state would be established.

Netanyahu served as prime minister for three years in the 1990s and returned to office in 2009. A fourth term would make him Israel's longest serving leader.

Netanyahu focused his campaign primarily on security issues, while his opponents instead pledged to address the country's high cost of living and accused the leader of being out of touch with everyday people.

Netanyahu will likely look to battle that image by adding to his government Moshe Kahlon, whose upstart Kulanu party captured 10 seats with a campaign focused almost entirely on bread-and-butter economic issues. Kahlon is expected to become the country's next finance minister.

Netanyahu's return to power for a fourth term likely spells trouble for Mideast peace efforts and could further escalate tensions with the United States.

Netanyahu, who already has a testy relationship with Barack Obama, took a sharp turn to the right in the final days of the campaign, staking out a series of hard-line positions that will put him on a collision course with much of the international community.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama believed strong U.S.-Israeli ties would endure far beyond the election, regardless of the victor.

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