TEL AVIV (JTA) – Exit polls in Israel showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party neck and neck at the top with the centre-left Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog.
The two parties had 27 seats each, according to the polls by the Channel 1 and Channel 10 television stations. Channel 2 had Likud with 28 and Zionist Union with 27.
The polls showed the Arab-Israeli Joint List finishing third with 13 seats, according to Channels 2 and 10, and the centrist Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid and currently the Knesset’s largest party, coming in fourth. The newly founded Kulanu, led by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, placed fifth.
According to the Channel 1 and Channel 10 polls, the right wing haredi Orthodox bloc will hold 54 seats, with the centre-left Arab bloc at 56 seats. Channel 2 has them at 54 and 57, respectively.
President Reuven Rivlin responded to the results by calling for a unity government.
Jewish Home, the pro-settler, religious Zionist party led by Naftali Bennett, placed sixth with nine seats, according to Channel 1, down from the 12 it holds in the current Knesset.
The haredi Orthodox Shas party was seventh with seven seats followed by United Torah Judaism with six seats, though Channel 10 had them tied at seven apiece. In a tie for ninth were the left wing Meretz and right wing Yisrael Beiteinu with five seats each, according to all the polls. The far-right Yachad did not win enough votes to enter Knesset.
The next Knesset will have 10 parties, two fewer than the departing parliament.