The Blue and White party, headed by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, drew even with Netanyahu's Likud party in the polls, but the incumbent prime minister is poised to form a government with his larger bloc of religious and nationalist allies.
"Presently, Benjamin Netanyahu's party "Likud" also has 35 seats in the parliament, but its natural allies are "Shas" party with eight mandates", he said. Arab leaders accused Netanyahu of demonizing the country's Arab community, which is about 20 percent of the population.
"This rotating [premiership] agreement between Gantz and lapid was ruinous and it assured that the ultra-Orthodox will ... recommend Netanyahu". "I was very moved that the nation of Israel once again entrusted me for the fifth time, and with an even greater trust".
The Arab parties lost three seats in the Knesset due to their differences and failure to run in a joint list, political analysts and activists in the Arab sector were cited as saying by the Jerusalem Post.
"Generally speaking, pre-election polls in Israel have recently turned from a means of understanding the current situation into a tool for agitation".
Ambassador John Bolton told Hugh Hewitt Wednesday morning that the administration was pleased with Netanyahu's projected win, in part because he has been a steady force in the fight against Iranian aggression. He also pledged to annex West Bank settlements, a step that could snuff out any remaining hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State at his residence in Jerusalem. A third poll showed the opposite, with Blue and White holding a one-seat advantage.
"People say: I don't care if he is corrupt or not, I don't care if he took a few cigars or presents, the main thing is that, from my point of view, the economy is growing and there is security", Ariel University lecturer Erez Cohen said.More news: Oil prices fall on surging United States crude supply, economic slowdown
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And leaders from the right side of the political spectrum have paid tribute to the man who could later this year overtake David Ben-Gurion as Israel's longest-serving prime minister.
"It is a night of colossal victory", the 69-year-old Netanyahu told cheering supporters in a late-night speech at Likud headquarters, while cautioning that a "long night and possibly day" lay ahead awaiting official results.
His attacks on the Arab sector fuelled calls for a boycott and appeared to result in relatively low turnout by Arab voters.
"The struggle against Iran's efforts to subvert peace and security in the region continues", Bolton said. They do not give out frequent updates, as they do in the United States.
It's the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who will suffer most from this vote.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and will have the opportunity to plead his case at a pre-trial hearing against the filing of potential bribery and fraud charges.
Israeli voters were choosing between some 40 different candidate lists, representing parties, alliances and individuals. Legal experts expect at least some charges to be filed, which could set the stage for a short term in office for Netanyahu and another round of elections soon.
In the final days of the election, Netanyahu launched what Israeli political commentators dubbed a "gevalt strategy", a Yiddish expression for alarm, aimed at motivating complacent supporters to get out and vote or risk his defeat at the hands of a resurgent left-wing.