The vote samples of all three TV channels indicate a significant advantage for the Likud party over Blue&White, and show the rightwing bloc winning 59 to 60 Knesset seats (out of 120), compared to only 54 to 55 for the leftwing bloc. Likud has won the march 2 election with an advantage of between three and five seat over Blue&White – between 36 and 37 seats. In light of this stunning, come-from-behind victory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early Tuesday morning stood before his supporters at the Tel Aviv exhibition grounds and declared:

“Dear Likud members, citizens of Israel – when the month of Adar begins, joy is increased. And what a joy we have tonight. It’s a huge victory night. […] My friends, we have been marching together for many years now. I remember the victory in 1996, but the victory this time is sweet, if not more so. It is a victory against all odds. We were facing tremendous forces. Our rivals said, ‘The Netanyahu era is over.’ We turned changed that, we turned the lemons into lemonade.”

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Netanyahu explained his surprise victory: “We went through every city, neighborhood by neighborhood, we plowed through the country. We met our citizens, no one compares with you. We met you face to face. We listened to you. Some of you we had to convince.”

He boasted: “We produced the best decade in the history of the state. I want to thank you. Without you, it wouldn’t have happened. We turned Israel into a superpower. We’ve cultivated relationships that we had not had before with world leaders, and I want to tell you: this includes many leaders—more than you can imagine, including in the Arab and Muslim world. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. When I tell you that we will reach peace agreements with world countries – I’m not just saying that.”

Netanyahu continued: “We’ve seen all the Likud tribes return home to the Likud. Ethiopians, FSU olim. Together we were able to make changes. They saw that we made Israel a good place to live. What a wonderful country and people.”

Netanyahu addressed his next steps, once he cobbles together his new coalition government:

“Here’s what we’re going to achieve: applying sovereignty to the settlements, eliminating the Iranian threat, signing an alliance with the US, peace agreements with leading Arab and Muslim countries, bringing huge investments to the cultural world, this is the mission. Ensuring the future of the country – this is our mission, and my life’s mission. Thanks to you, we will accomplish all this.”

“Tomorrow, we will meet with all members of the rightwing bloc and establish a good national government for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu announced (meaning Tuesday morning). “It was a big win for the rightwing camp and a big victory for the Likudniks. But I want to make it clear – I intend to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens, without exception. Of rightwing voters, of Jews and of non-Jews.”

(He didn’t mention leftwing voters, you’ll notice. Possibly because they were both in bed already…)

Netanyahu concluded: “My mission as prime minister is to form a stable government. We have been through some tough election campaigns. It is time to stop running for elections and to form a government in Israel. It is time to mend the gaps, it’s time for reconciliation, and I will continue to work on your behalf. I will continue to work for you, and for our amazing country.”

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