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'Close To A Big Victory,' Benjamin Netanyahu Says As Former PM Leads Israel's Exit Polls

Israel's former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be headed close to electoral victory, according to the exit polls, BBC reported on Wednesday.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Image: AP

Israel's former premier Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be headed close to electoral victory, according to the exit polls, BBC reported. "We are close to a big victory," he told supporters on Wednesday as Israel awaits the official results which will be out in the coming hours.

The election could pave the way for the political return of Netanyahu, who was ousted last year after holding office for 12 consecutive years. The former PM is competing against current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who said "nothing" was yet decided despite the exit polls signalling Netanyahu being on the cusp of victory.

However, addressing supporters of his Likud party, the opposition leader said: “Today, we received an incredible expression of support” as crowds cheered “Bibi is back,” and “Bibi, king of Israel.” “The nation wanted a different a way, a different government. The nation wanted a government that will look out for it,” Netanyahu said during the address, The Times of Israel reported.

As polls were declared at 22:00, loud music playing on speakers took over the central venue of the Likud party in Jerusalem. "It looks like we can be optimistic and have some hope we are about to get a stable coalition with Bibi [Mr Netanyahu] as the prime minister," said one Likud supporter, David Adler.

Who is Benjamin Netanyahu?

73-year-old Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most controversial political figures in Israel, who oscillates between loathing from the left-wingers and adoration from supporters of the Likud party. Netanyahu is a vocal right-winger, and a strong supporter of Israel’s attempt to annex parts of the West Bank, which lies in the Palestinian territory and has been occupied by Israeli forces since the 1967 Middle East war.

In the past, the former premier has strongly opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a way to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine, in spite of the potential solution having been backed by several world governments, including the United States’ Biden administration. Netanyahu has served as prime minister of Israel twice, from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 to 2021. 

What adds to Netanyahu’s controversiality is his ongoing trial over allegations of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, which critics fear will be closed if he rises back to power. His detractors also speculate that his potential victory could result in the sacking of the current attorney-general, and the appointment of a replacement who could end his public corruption trial.

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