Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party scored a resounding victory in the country's election, final results showed today, a stunning turnaround after a tight race that had put his lengthy rule in jeopardy.
- The numbers: With nearly all the votes counted, Likud appeared to have earned 30 out of the parliament's 120 seats and was in a position to be able to build a coalition government with its right-wing and religious allies with relative ease.
- Exit polls were off: Recent opinion polls had indicated Netanyahu was in trouble, giving chief rival Isaac Herzog of Zionist Union a slight lead. Exit polls showed the two sides deadlocked, but once the actual results came pouring in, Likud soared and Zionist Union wound up with just 24 seats.
- From his mouth: "Against all odds, we achieved a great victory," Netanyahu told supporters before the final results were in. "I am proud of the people of Israel, who in the moment of truth knew how to distinguish between what is important and what is peripheral, and to insist on what is important."
- What to expect: He staked out a series of hard-line positions in the final days of the campaign—notably declaring there would be no Palestinian state on his watch—and the AP sees his return to power for a fourth term likely spelling trouble for Mideast peace efforts and possibly escalating tensions with the US. But the New York Times notes this about his past: "Still, Mr. Netanyahu has a long history in power and has in the past demonstrated that he can change positions from campaigning to governing. His record is as a pragmatist, analysts said."
- What he'll face: Reuters notes the Palestinians will on April 1 join the International Criminal Court—and may cause a headache for Netanyahu in short order. They've previously said they want war crimes charges leveled against Israel.
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