Both sides claim victory as exit polls suggest cliffhanger in Israel elections

Israeli exit polls indicate prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the rival Blue and White party are locked in a race that is too close to call with both sides claiming victory minutes after voting ended.

Channels 12 and Kan TV gave the Blue and White party, headed by former military chief Benny Gantz, a narrow lead over the Likud, while Channel 10 TV showed them in a tie in Tuesday’s vote.

The channels also gave different breakdowns for possible coalitions, with two stations giving Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc a slight parliamentary majority while Channel 12 had them tied at 60 seats apiece.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, right, casts his vote with his wife Revital (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, right, casts his vote with his wife Revital (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Both candidates claimed victory in their first remarks after polls closed.

Mr Netanyahu said: “A right-wing bloc led by the Likud party won a clear victory.

“I thank the citizens of Israel for the trust.”

Mr Gantz and ally Yair Lapid also declared: “We won! The Israeli public has had their say!”

With neither side having a clear advantage, they will have to wait for official results to come in.

Arab leaders made a last-minute push to implore their followers to vote.

Ayman Odeh, a leading Arab politician, was broadcasting on Facebook live, while religious leaders were making calls on mosque loudspeakers.

Many voters, accusing Mr Netanyahu of anti-Arab incitement, have decided to boycott this year’s vote.

The decision could have negative repercussions.

Arab parties could struggle to receive enough votes to enter parliament, potentially bolstering Mr Netanyahu’s party and its hardline allies.

Earlier, Mr Netanyahu filmed himself at the beach in Netanya and urged people to go vote or “wake up tomorrow to a leftist government”.

Mr Gantz, a former army chief of staff who seeks to unseat Mr Netanyahu, shared a video in which he appears to assist a motorcyclist who was involved in a traffic accident.

- Press Association

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