Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a come-from-behind victory in Israel's election on Wednesday after tacking hard to the right in the final days of campaigning, including abandoning a commitment to negotiate a Palestinian state.
In a four-day pre-election blitz, Netanyahu made a series of promises designed to shore up his Likud base and draw voters from other right-wing and nationalist parties. He pledged to go on building settlements on occupied land and said there would be no Palestinian state if he was re-elected.
With 99.5 percent of votes counted, Likud had won 29-30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, comfortably defeating the Zionist Union opposition on 24 seats, Israel's Central Election Committee and Israeli media said. A united list of Arab parties came in third.
It amounted to a dramatic and unexpected victory - the last opinion polls published four days before the vote showed the Zionist Union with a four-seat advantage over Likud.
In a statement, Likud said Netanyahu intended to form a new government within weeks, with negotiations already underway with the pro-settler Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, the centrist Kulanu party and ultra-Orthodox groups.