"I thank the citizens of Israel who voted for me again," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said following the release of exit polls on Tuesday night. "According to the exit polls, it is clear that Israelis decided that they want me to continue serving as prime minister, and that I form as broad a government as possible," he added.
Netanyahu looked likely to squeak through with a narrow victory in Tuesday's Knesset elections, the exit polls - released as soon as the ballots closed - seemed to indicate.
Likud MKs Danny Danon and Gideon Sa'ar said following the release of the polls that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister and form the next coalition. "This time, again, the Left doesn't understand the results of the election," Danon said.
"The Right bloc is the one representing the will of the people. Madame Yacimovich shouldn't celebrate," he added. Meanwhile Sa'ar stated that Netanyahu was the one capable of forming a government and said that all Zionist parties would be invited to join the coalition.
With the announcement that Yesh Atid finished second with an estimated 18-19 seats, the house hit the roof at Yesh Atid's headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, the expected new Knesset members were ecstatic.
Number nine Adi Kol said that Yesh Atid was "absolutely the source of the higher voter turnout" reported.
Karen Alharar, number 10, said she was "surprised." "The surveys and campaign were up and down, but we were very successful," she said. Asked what impact the second place finish would have on their role in a future government, Alharar seemed to assume they would join the next coalition and said, "very powerful. We're now the second largest party in Israel."
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett vowed to make Israel a place in which "our soldiers don't have their hands tied," and "our enemies will know not to mess with Israel."
Bennett, whose party received 12 Knesset seats according to exit polls, vowed to lower the cost of living and housing.
Bennett failed to speak specifically about negotiations to form the next government coalition, but promised to make the country a "home for all of the Israeli people."
Bayit Yehudi candidate Ayelet Shaked said that Likud is her party's natural coalition partner, despite their campaign against her party in the lead-up to the elections. "It is a shame about their campaign," she said, "but a campaign is a campaign, and now we need to manage the state." “To go from five mandates (in the last Knesset) to 12 is huge,” said fellow party candidate Jeremy Gimpel, who is 14th on the party’s list.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said that the Labor party will work on joining a Center-Left coalition to threaten the right-wing bloc, minutes after preliminary election results had them at a disappointing third with only 17 mandates.
“There is now an opportunity to release Israeli citizens from the abuse of the Netanyahu government and to do this we must work seriously and discreetly because the fate of the Israeli public depends on it."
Yacimovich added ,"I will do all I can and have already started this morning to work on a coalition based on social economic issues and a diplomatic process."
She also expressed her hope that a political revolution will take place and the Netanyahu government will fall, saying “there is no doubt that a political drama is taking place before our eyes - the final results of which we'll see in the morning. There is a big chance for a revolution and the end of the Netanyahu government."
Tzipi Livni, slated to get seven mandates according to the polls, vowed to remain in the Knesset, in order to "make Israel a better country," that leads "a diplomatic peace process."
"I returned in order to stay," she added, a comment directed at critics who speculated that she would quit again, as she did when she lost to Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz.
For his part, Shas triumvirate leader Arye Deri expressed satisfaction and optimism with his party’s exit poll results, and promised to protect the weak sectors of society who Shas has campaigned for in the coming government.
Deri also roundly denounced Haim Amsalem and Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak for running against Shas and accused their respective parties of causing Shas to drop two seats, despite the fact they neither of them passed the electoral threshold.
“This was the hardest campaign Shas has ever faced but we have proved that we are the most stable party of government and that Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef is the leader of Sephardi Jewry in Israel and around the world,” Deri declared. “We will represent those who don’t have in the next government regardless of sectoral considerations. Poverty has no color and poverty has no kippa,” he continued, emphasizing Shas’ campaign message of protecting the poor from budget cuts in the next government.
Meanwhile, cheers arose at The Tzipi Livni Party campaign closing event in Tel Aviv Tuesday night as Channel 2’s exit polls showed the party with seven seats in the 19th Knesset.
Slightly beating expectations from the last poll, which put the party at six, activists maintained a positive outlook, chanting, “Revolution!” and promising that the numbers would only go up.