Exit polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party finishing close second to his challenger Benny Gantz's Blue and White party after Israeli elections but the right wing bloc led by the Premier looks in a better position to form a coalition government.
Israelis on Tuesday voted in the country's most closely fought election in years that will decide whether incumbent Netanyahu will get another term to become the longest serving premier in the Jewish state's history or be replaced with a former army chief.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz claimed victory minutes after the exit polls by Israel's three main television stations came out.
"The right-wing bloc led by Likud won a clear victory," Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
"I thank the citizens of Israel for their faith. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partners tonight already," the Prime Minister stressed.
Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party also claimed victory saying, "We won!"
"The Israeli people have spoken. Thank you to the thousands of activists and over a million voters. In these elections, there is a clear winner and a clear loser. Bibi (Netanyahu) promised 40 seats and lost, big time,” a press statement by the party said.
Exit polls have proven to be unreliable in past Israeli elections.
The exit polls by Channel 11, Channel 12 and Channel 13 put Gantz's Blue and White with either 36 or 37 seats in the 120-seat Knesset (Israeli parliament), while Netanyahu's Likud had between 33 and 36 seats.
A combination of Netanyahu's Likud and smaller right-wing parties allied to him had between 60 and 66 seats, according to the exit polls.
Gantz's Blue and White alliance along with other smaller parties had between 54 and 60 seats, the polls showed.