Likud, the conservative party led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has soundly won Israel's parliamentary elections on Tuesday according to the Jerusalem Post and YNet News. Likud won a total of 30 seats in the Knesset while the main opposition group, the Zionist Union, came in second with 24, and the Joint Arab List came in third with 14 seats.
Left-leaning opposition leader Isaac Herzog conceded the election and congratulated Netanyahu on his achievement, while Netanyahu in his victory speech announced his plan to form a right wing coalition of nationalist and religious parties. The Knesset is composed of 120 seats in total and the remaining seats were allocated to Yesh Atid (11); Kulanu (10); Bayit Yehudi (8); United Torah Judaism (6); Yisrael Beytenu (6); and Meretz (4).
Netanyahu served his first term as prime minister from 1996 until 1999, and was again elected in 2009 and 2013. He was also the leader of the opposition from 2006 to 2009 and previously held the positions of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance. Netanyahu was the first Prime Minister to be born in the state of Israel after its establishment, and if he completes his 4th term he will become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, surpassing founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Preliminary polls last week suggested that the Zionist Union led by centre-left Herzog would capture the victory in these early elections, however Netanyahu pulled off the clear victory amid remarks that have drawn international controversy. In the lead up to the elections, Netanyahu bluntly reiterated his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state if re-elected, which will likely have serious negative implications on the pending peace process.From Israel's capital in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu announced, "The citizens of Israel expect us to quickly put together a leadership that will work for the sake of the country's security, economy, and society as we promised to do, and that is what I will do."