Opposition Leader Yair Lapid cheered Tuesday’s election results, with his centrist Yesh Atid finishing as the second-largest party, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc appearing to fall short of a majority.
“Three months ago we brought down the government. We were the fourth largest party in Israel and now we are the second largest and leading the change bloc,” Lapid said at Yesh Atid’s election party.
He noted other parties opposed to Netanyahu cleared the threshold, keeping “alive the chance of change in Israel.” He also said Yesh Atid members could be proud of how they conducted themselves during the campaign.
“At the moment, Netanyahu doesn’t have 61 seats but the change bloc does. We’ll wait for the final results but as it stands there won’t be a government based on the votes of the racists and homophobes,” Lapid said, referring to the far-right Religious Zionists, which include Kahanists and anti-LGTB activists.
The Yesh Atid chief said he was speaking to other party leaders and pledged his party will “do everything to create a sane government.”
Among the party heads Lapid spoke with were Nitzan Horowitz, chief of the left-wing Meretz party, and Gideon Sa’ar, who heads the right-wing New Hope.
Lapid and Sa’ar agreed to cooperate moving forward, Hebrew media reports said.
According to exit polls, Yesh Atid was set to finish with 17-18 seats, trailing Netanyahu’s Likud with 30-31.
Although first exit polls appeared to give the right-wing a path to a coalition, leading to Netanyahu to claim a “giant victory,” the picture shifted as the night developed.
All three channels updated their exit poll results to correlate with actual results coming in and showed Netanyahu losing his possible majority.
An updated exit poll from Channel 12 news had Likud dropping to 30 seats, with Netanyahu’s bloc together with Yamina falling to 59 seats. The centrist Yesh Atid held steady as the second-largest party with 18 seats.
While the results gave the anti-Netanyahu bloc 61 seats, it was far from clear if these parties could come together to form a government, as they range from the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu and New Hope factions to the majority Arab Joint List.
In the updated Channel 13 and Kan news exit polls, Netanyahu’s bloc and Yamina dropped one seat to 60.
The exit polls, which have in the past been off the mark, will continually be updated throughout the night as votes are tallied. The nail-biting outcome will come down to the actual results, which include hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots that are hard for pollsters to account for.