Binyamin Netanyahu will continue to serve as Prime Minister, but his power has been diminished, according to exit polls published Tuesday evening as the polls closed.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu released a statement shortly after the polls were published, indicating he would immediately begin working to form as wide a coalition as possible.
“I want to thank the millions of Israeli citizens who exercised their democratic right today,” said Netanyahu in the statement that was posted to his Facebook page.
“The results of the exit polls make it clear that Israeli citizens stated that they want me to continue to serve as Prime Minister of Israel, and that should I form as broad a government as possible.”
“The emerging results are a great opportunity for many changes for all Israeli citizens. The election is behind us and there are many complex challenges ahead. Tonight I will begin the efforts to build the widest coalition possible,” said Netanyahu.
In another statement posted several minutes later, Netanyahu indicated that he had already spoken to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and told him that “we have an opportunity to do great things for Israel.”
The exit polls indicated that the joint Likud Beytenu list will achieve 31 seats, significantly lower than the 42 that the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu had in the outgoing Knesset.
Lapid surpassed all his achievements in previous surveys and has earned 18-19 seats, putting it in second place.
The Labor party was in third with 17, Shas was fourth with 13, and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) was in fifth with 12.
Meanwhile, MK Danny Danon, who has the ninth spot on the Likud-Beytenu list, tried to play down the results for his party, noting that despite the fact that there are fewer seats for the Likud, Netanyahu will still be Prime Minister.
"The rightist camp is that one that represents the will of the people,” he said. “Ms. Yechimovich should not celebrate. The left once again does not understand the election results. Netanyahu is the next prime minister, and he will form a new government while maintaining the principles of the national camp.”