Live updates: Netanyahu falls short again in Israeli election
Areeb here from MEE's London office. With most of the votes counted after Tuesday's election, Israel is set for another political deadlock. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party emerged with 32 seats each - falling well short of a 61-seat majority. A unity government bringing together the two rivals could be the only path forward to end the impasse.
Here's a round-up of key points to watch over the coming weeks:
1) Once all the votes are counted, all eyes will turn to President Reuven Rivlin, who is likely to meet with Netanyahu and Gantz following consultations with the smaller parties.
2) The Joint List, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, is set to win 12 seats in the Israeli Knesset and could become Israel's official opposition.
3) Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is poised to win nine seats, called for a secular unity government between Gantz and Netanyahu. He has already ruled out sitting in a coalition with the Joint List.
4) Netanyahu ruled out the prospect of joining forces with Gantz to form a national unity government. While Gantz hinted that he was open to the idea, he said he will wait for the final results to make a decision.
5) The outcome of political crisis may spell the end of Netanyahu's political career, as he faces multiple investigations into several corruption cases.
Likud Knesset member Miki Zohar said his party was damaged by its failed attempt to pass a law allowing parties to film voters in polling stations.
“Without a doubt, the cameras campaign came back at us like a boomerang,” Zohar said.
The most expected outcome of Tuesday elections in Israel has somehow become the biggest surprise.
The tie between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White on about 33 seats each is a reflection of longtime division of Israeli society into two camps.
Yet even before Israelis know who their next PM is going to be, even before we know if the Netanyahu era is over, all political analysts agree the days of Netanyahu as we know him - “the magician”, the omnipotent leader of ”another league” - are certainly over.
Read MEE's latest analysis from Lily Galili in Tel Aviv, Israel
Aymen Odeh, the leader of the Palestinian Joint List, has said his party may become the official opposition.
With Blue and White and Likud likely to form a unity government, the Join List would be the largest remaining party. It is on course to win 12 to 13 seats.
Odeh said he's open to the idea of becoming the official leader of the opposition, including “attending security briefings”.
The Joint List leader said “it is possible that we will recommend Blue and White head Benny Gantz [to form a government] to President Reuven. However, we have clear conditoins and based on them we will decide. We want to replace Netanyahu.”
As leader of the opposition, Odeh would meet weekly with the prime minister and attend high-level security briefings. He could conceivably be informed of operations in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere.
With 92 percent of the votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and Benny Gantz's Blue and White party are tied, according to a source in Israel's Central Elections Committee, Israel's Haaretz newspaper has reported.
According to the partial results, both parties each won 32 out of 120 Knesset seats.
Netanyahu's bloc, made up of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, stands at 56 seats. The centre-left bloc, excluding the Joint List, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, has 43 seats.
Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is projected nine seats, is expected to be the election's kingmaker.
He repeated his support on Wednesday for a "broad liberal unity government," which would include Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and the Blue and White party.
Early exit polls showed Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party neck-to-neck with Benny Gantz's Blue and White, with two polls giving the former army chief the edge over the prime minister.
By 6am about a quarter of the votes had been counted.
Revised surveys by Israeli TV stations, several hours after polls closed, gave Likud 30 to 33 of parliament's 120 seats, a slight drop from earlier forecasts, versus 32 to 34 for Blue and White.
Neither had enough support, at first glance, for a governing coalition of 61 legislators, and Netanyahu's ally-turned-rival, former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, emerged as a likely kingmaker as head of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party.
Gantz, said it appeared from the exit polls that Israel's longest-serving leader was defeated but that only official results would tell, the Reuters news agency reported.
In his own speech to Likud party faithful, Netanyahu, sipping water frequently and speaking in a hoarse voice, made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, saying he was awaiting a vote tally.