Kadima and Likud Claim Victory

Initial exit polls give Kadima a narrow victory over the Likud, but each party claims it will lead the next government coalition.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ,

Livni ahead. Netanyahu likely Prime Minister
Livni ahead. Netanyahu likely Prime Minister
Flash 90

Initial exit polls give Kadima 28-30 mandates compared with only 26-28 for the Likud, which has a large bloc of potential parties to form the next coalition government. However, aides to Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said she will try to form a national unity government if her party continues to be in first place.

The exit polls show Israel Is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) with 14-16 Knesset Members and Labor 13-14. Shas follows with 9-10 seats.

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) will have 5-6 MKs, and the polls give five seats to Meretz, four to Jewish Home, three to Ichud Leumi (National Union) and nine to the three Arab parties.

The potential bloc supporting Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu is 63, compared with only 48 for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, not including the Arab MKs.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima) and senior aides to Livni said she will open negotiations to form a national unity government. Knesset Member Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) reiterated that most Labor MKs will refuse to sit with Yisrael Beiteinu in a government.

Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) cautioned not to take the exit polls as being the final results. "The Likud will be in the lead by the morning," he said. "In the previous elections, Kadima lost four mandates in the end…. In any case, the nationalist camp won a large victory."