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Voter turnout (71,8%) was the highest since 1999. Women and Arab representatives are also seen as ‘winners’ of the election. Both Likud and Zionist Union will try to form government coalitions.
With nearly all votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party is set to emerge as the election’s big winner with 29 seats. The Zionist Union trails behind with 24 seats.
Netanyahu called for “a strong, stable government” that would tackle “security and socio-economic challenges.”
“Reality isn't taking a break. The citizens of Israel expect us to quickly put together a leadership that will work for the sake of the country's security, economy, and society as we promised to do, and that is what I will do”, Netanyahu said in a statement after winning the election.
“The Prime Minister plans to immediately begin forming a government in order to complete the task within two to three weeks”, he added.
LABOUR COMES SECOND, ARABS HAVE RECORD RESULT
The Zionist Union (centre-left, labour) came second with 24 seats in the Knesset. He called on the “social parties” to unite under him to form “a real reconciliation government.”
Later, leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni admitted: “This is not an easy morning for us and for those who believe in our way. We will lead the fight, together with our partners in the Knesset, for the values we believe in. We will fight on behalf of the citizens of Israel for social justice, a diplomatic horizon, equality and democracy in hope that we can maintain a just, safe Jewish and democratic state.”
The Joint List of Arab parties became the third-largest party with an historic result. Arab parties and the Arab-Jewish Hadash together in a single list will become the third biggest group in the Knesset, with 14 seats, according to the exit polls. Turnout in the Arab sector was much higher that it has been for years, and this alliance already announced they would not join any Zionist government.
President Reuven Rivlin said he would work for a national unity government.
PALESTINIAN LEADER SEES NEED FOR 2-STATE SOLUTION
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said after Israel’s election that he was not concerned with who will be Israel’s next Prime Minister. Abbas's speaker said that the PA would continue to work with any Israeli government that recognises “legitimate international resolutions.”
If the Israeli government should prove that it is not committed to a two-state solution, then there is no chance for a resumption of the peace process, Abbas’ spokesman Abu Rudeineh added.