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Netanyahu's Likud Leading In Israeli Vote


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City after casting his ballot.
Exit polls indicate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party has won the most votes in Israel's parliamentary elections.

Exit polls on several Israeli television channels showed Likud winning 31 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Exit polls also show a narrow majority for right-wing, nationalist, and religious parties over centrist parties.

Full official results are expected on January 23.

Voter turnout was unexpectedly strong. The Central Election Commission said that two hours before polls closed, turnout was 63.7 percent, the highest since 1999.

Netanyahu cast his ballot in Jerusalem. He said he hoped for a "flood of votes" for the right-wing alliance between his Likud Party and secular nationalists Yisrael Beiteinu.

"We want Israel to succeed, [so] we vote Likud-Beitenu. That's why. The bigger [Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu] is, the more Israel will succeed, and my entire family concurs with me completely," Netanyahu said.

Speaking to journalists later, he said: "What we are really worried about is the multiplicity of parties and the splitting of votes because it is very difficult to lead the state with multiplicity of votes," he said. "You need a central channel. I need people to come and vote."
Polls show that while Likud-Beitenu is expected to retain a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, the two parties are likely to lose some 10 seats. That's largely due to the appearance of a newcomer on Israel's political scene.
The ultranationalist Jewish Home party of Naftali Bennett has been the surprise of the campaign so far.
The 40-year-old Bennett has been described as the new "rock star" of Israeli politics, targeting the youth vote and voters from the former Soviet Union.
Bennett also spoke to reporters after casting his ballot in Raanana.

"Our goal is to unite all of the state of Israel -- the religious, the nonreligious, the secular, the ultrareligious, the Arabs, the Jews -- everyone together, to unite and do some good things for this great nation," Bennett said.
Jewish Home is predicted to win only some 15 seats in the Knesset but that is a significant increase from the three seats the party won in 2009.
Bennett's rise could complicate the prospects for progress in relations with the Palestinians.
He has been cheered on the campaign trail when telling supporters he will do everything he can to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state "within the Land of Israel," as he puts it.
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