Israeli election exit polls project Netanyahu in lead

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7:09 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Our live coverage of Israel's repeat general election has concluded for now, but you can read all about the next developments in our main story here.

6:31 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Two updated exit poll projections see Netanyahu bloc slip below 60

Two of the big three Israeli TV channels have updated their election projections to show Netanyahu’s preferred bloc slipping by one seat from 60 to 59.

Here are the updated projections:

Channel 12 News

Likud 37
Blue & White 32
Joint List 15
Yisrael Beiteinu 7 
Shas 9
UTJ 7
Yamina 6 
Labor-Gesher-Meretz 7

Channel 13 News

Likud 37
Blue & White 34 
Joint List 14
Yisrael Beiteinu 6 
Shas 9
UTJ 7
Yamina 6 
Labor-Gesher-Meretz 7

There are 120 seats in the Knesset. A party needs to cross a threshold of 3.25% of the national vote to secure representation.

These updated projections produce blocs like this:

Channel 12 News

Netanyahu bloc 59
Gantz bloc 54
Yisrael Beiteinu 7

Channel 13 News

Netanyahu bloc 59
Gantz bloc 55
Yisrael Beiteinu 6

5:04 a.m. ET, March 3, 2020

Excitement and relief at Likud election headquarters

A man in a Benjamin Netanyahu face mask celebrates at the Likud's electoral headquarters. Jack Guez/AFP
A man in a Benjamin Netanyahu face mask celebrates at the Likud's electoral headquarters. Jack Guez/AFP

Likud's election headquarters in Tel Aviv is filling up fast with excited supporters, who see this as an absolute victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Absolute excitement. A sense of relief, but also excitement that we ran a campaign that was positive, exciting, and that people responded. It’s a tremendous turnout. Excitement everywhere and it’s reflected over here as well,” Elie Pieprz, a Likud voter, told CNN.

Another Likud supporter, Hila Kiron, said that the mood felt drastically different to the last two elections.

It is a different feeling. I saw the crowd ... it's gonna be thousands of people. The feeling is I cant even describe it; it’s like we won. It seems like the media in Israel, and actually everyone wanted to see Bibi Netanyahu falling. It didn’t happen, it won’t happen," Kiron said.

This post has been updated.

5:16 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Israel's third election in 11 months had a 71.0% turnout

Turnout in Israel’s general election was 71.0%, according to the country's Central Elections Commission. That compares with a figure in the September 2019 election of 69.4% and the April 2019 election of 67.9%

Through most of the day, turnout looked on track to be the highest in any Israeli election since 1999. But voting appears to have tailed off in the last two hours of polling, relatively speaking, and the final figure was lower than that seen in the 2015 election of 71.8%

5:12 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

"The wound is painful": Parties outside Netanyahu "bloc" reflect on exit polls

Senior Blue & White member Ofer Shelah admitted the exit poll projections were disappointing. “The wound is painful. We need to do the utmost to prevent a Netanyahu government,” he said on Israeli TV.

Retired General Yair Golan, of the center-left Labour-Gesher-Meretz alliance, also admitted the exit poll projections looked poor. “We need to rebuild the left-wing camp,” he said on Israeli TV.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, Ayman Odeh, hailed his party’s own success and slammed Blue & White. He called the projected result for the Joint List “the greatest parliamentary achievement [for Arab parties] since the first Knesset. The problem is Blue and White’s racist approach in seeking a Jewish majority. We succeeded. [Blue and White] failed.”

And Avigdor Liberman -- who has sought to carve out a kingmaker role since the first election in April -- struck a defiant tone. “The thing to do is to wait for the true results before we reach conclusions. We won’t budge an inch from what we promised,” he said.

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, during a press conference.
Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, during a press conference. AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

4:09 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Netanyahu tweets “thanks” after exit polls show his coalition leading

As polls closed in Israel’s general election Monday and three Israeli television polls projected that a coalition of Israel’s right-wing parties led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on track to secure 60 seats in the 120-seat parliament, Netanyahu tweeted the word “thanks,” along with a red heart emoji.

A few minutes later, he posted a photo of himself, along with his wife Sara, his two sons Yair and Avner, and more than dozen young members of his campaign team, with a simple message: “a great victory for Israel.”

3:54 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Israel’s right claims election victory

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's supporters celebrate first exit poll results for the Israeli elections at his party's headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's supporters celebrate first exit poll results for the Israeli elections at his party's headquarters in Tel Aviv. AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Israel’s right-wing parties are claiming victory after all three main exit polls projected a bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- made up of his Likud, the hardline right-wing Yamina, and the two religious parties -- is on track to secure 60 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

A statement from Netanyahu’s Likud said the Prime Minister had spoken Monday evening with all party leaders in what the statement called the "national bloc" and they had “agreed to form a strong national government for Israel soon.”

It is not clear at this stage from where Netanyahu will take the seat, or seats, he would need to get a majority in parliament.

Back in April’s election, the same bloc of parties secured 60 seats in the Knesset but was still unable to form a government.

3:51 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Coalition calculus: Which parties might join together to form a government?

Blue and White party supporter reacts at first exit polls for the Israeli elections at party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 2.
Blue and White party supporter reacts at first exit polls for the Israeli elections at party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 2. AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

Initial Israeli TV exit polls projected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party to be the winners in this election. But even if the final results bear out these projections, Netanyahu will still need to find partners to form a coalition government with a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

The most likely parties to partner with him are the hard-line right-wing Yamina party and the two religious parties, Shas and UTJ. But none of the exit polls project that this grouping would gain a majority of 61 seats — they all project this bloc falling one seat short of that.

A reminder: back in April, this Netanyahu bloc also won 60 seats, but were still unable to form a government.

Gantz’s Blue and White Party could secure the support of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz party, plus, perhaps, the Joint Arab List. But exit polls suggest that this bloc would only score between 52 and 54 seats — some way off a majority.

Kan News

Likud 36
Blue & White 33 
Joint List 15
Yisrael Beiteinu 6 
Shas 9
UTJ 8
Yamina 7 
Labor-Gesher-Meretz 6

Channel 12 News 

Likud 37
Blue & White 33
Joint List 14
Yisrael Beiteinu 6 
Shas 9
UTJ 7
Yamina 7 
Labor-Gesher-Meretz 7

Channel 13 News

Likud 37
Blue & White 32 
Joint List 14
Yisrael Beiteinu 8 
Shas 9
UTJ 8
Yamina 6 
Labor-Gesher-Meretz 6
3:21 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Exit polls: Likud projected to win most seats

Election campaign posters show Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his party's headquarters before the election results are announced in Tel Aviv.
Election campaign posters show Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his party's headquarters before the election results are announced in Tel Aviv. AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Israel election exit polls project Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party to win more seats than its main challenger, the Blue and White party.

Below are the projections, from Israel’s three main news channels.

Note: Previous experience tells us that there can be considerable discrepancy between exit polls and actual results.

Kan News

Likud 36
Blue & White 33 

Channel 12 News 

Likud 37
Blue & White 33

Channel 13 News

Likud 37
Blue & White 32