Exit Polls: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party On Track to Win Israeli Elections

TEL AVIV - An oversized billboard of President Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visible on Sunday from Tel Aviv's main highway as part of the prime minister's reelection campaign. 
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party are on track to win that country’s third successive parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls that emerged after polls closed at 10:00 p.m. local time.

With 60 seats, Netanyahu would be just one seat short of the 61 needed to form a governing coalition in the 120-seat Knesset — and that seat could come from any number of places, leaving Netanyahu more room to maneuver.

Turnout was the highest since the 1999 elections, suggesting that voters have not tired of having their say.

Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post noted: “The turnout was even higher among the 5,630 Israelis quarantined due to exposure to the coronavirus, among whom 4076 voted in special polling stations despite long lines.”

Netanyahu was thought to have won last April, after his coalition achieved a majority. However, a small, secular nationalist party pulled out of the coalition, triggering a second round of elections in September. That round was won by the opposition party, Blue and White, led by former Israel Defense Forces General Benny Gantz. But that party could not assemble a governing coalition, either, which led Israel into an unprecedented third round of voting.

The third time could be the charm for Netanyahu, whose party surged after trailing in the polls for months. Axios correspondent Barak Ravid attributes the Likud’s strong late push to Netanyahu’s successful diplomacy in Washington and Moscow over the past several weeks, as well as his decision not to seek immunity in looming corruption indictments against him. (Netanyahu’s supporters say that the charges are baseless and political.)

It may be no accident, however, that Netanyahu’s party surged just as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — by far, the most hostile candidate toward Israel in the U.S. presidential race — became the Democratic Party frontrunner. Netanyahu pitched himself to voters in 2009 as a tough leader who would oppose the anticipated anti-Israel policies of newly-installed President Barack Obama. Gantz promised to repair the Israeli government’s relationship with Democrats — just as Sanders was cementing his lead in that party’s presidential primary. Netanyahu, running on a platform that emphasized national security, may have benefited indirectly from the turbulent political winds in the United States.

With 60 seats, Netanyahu would be just one seat short of the 61 needed to form a governing coalition in the 120-seat Knesset — and that seat could come from any number of places, leaving Netanyahu more room to maneuver.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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