Calling it “the biggest win of my life,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a raucus crowd of the faithful at Likud election headquarters in Tel Aviv in a speech that began after 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
“The victory is even sweeter, because it was against all odds,” he said.
“They already eulogized us. Our opponents said, ‘the Netanyahu era is over.’ But together we flipped the script. We turned lemons to lemonade,” the prime minister said.
Cheers of “Bibi, King of Israel” filled the packed hall.
Exit polls showed the Likud with as many as 37 seats. On Tuesday morning, with 90% of votes counted, the Likud held 36 seats to Blue and White’s 32.
The right-wing as a whole leads 59 seats to the center-left-Arab bloc’s 54.
Still in campaign mode, Netanyahu said on Monday evening, “We plowed the country from north to south. There is nothing like the citizens of Israel. Israeli citizens trust us because they know that we have brought about the best decade in Israeli history.”
He then vowed to form a “strong, national government.”
“Tomorrow, after we’ve got some sleep, we will meet [with right-wing leaders] to form a strong, stable government, a good national government for Israel,” he said.
“This was a great victory for the right-wing camp, and first and foremost a victory for us,” he added, referring to Likud party voters.
Netanyahu also struck a conciliatory note, reaching out to non-Likud voters.
“I want to say, I intend to be the prime minister of every citizen of Israel, every right-wing voter, left-wing voter, Jews and non-Jews, every sector and every gender,” said Netanyahu.
“We must avoid any more elections. It’s time to heal the rifts. It’s time for reconciliation.”