With more than half votes counted on Tuesday, Likud is leading with 23.73 percent over the Zionist Union with 19.07 percent.
It was predicted that the chief opposition, Zionist Union, would take 26 to 27 seats. This is out of a total of 120 seats in Parliament with 61 seats needed to form a coalition government.
This comes as a reversal to polls published last week that predicted Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union to have at least a four seat lead over Likud. As of now, Israeli political analysts agree that the next Israeli government would be formed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
Factions traditionally backing Netanyahu were given 54 seats against the left leaning factions with 43 seats by exit polls.
The priority for both Netanyahu and Herzog now is to convince the other parties to join with them to form a coalition. Another party, Kulanu, led by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon signaled that he would be considering joining in a coalition with either camps but would reveal the decision until after polls close.
As a last minute bid to rally votes for the right-wing, Netanyahu evoked racist sentiments by accusing left-wing groups of busing in Arab Israeli voters to polling stations and pledged that no Palestinian state would be established while he remains prime minister.
Factions traditionally backing Netanyahu were given 54 seats against the left leaning factions with 43 seats by exit polls. President Reuvin Rivlin will have up to 42 days to decide which candidate is best able to form a coalition to be elected prime minister.
Turnouts was over 70 percent, higher than that of the last election in 2013. There was also a 2.3 percent increase of votes from Israeli soldiers.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stated that he believed the next Israeli government would be formed by Bibi and will instead push diplomatic efforts at the International Criminal Court. He stated firmly that Netanyahu had destroyed any possibility of the two-state solution.
The United States State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, referring to Netanyahu’s statement about Arab Israelis, remarked that the US is concerned of any statements attempting to marginalize communities.