Though it remains unclear whether the PM will obtain the parliamentary majority needed for victory, the provisional results place him in an advantaged position to form a right-wing governing coalition.
Netanyahu's Likud Party and right-wing allies, including ultra-orthodox parties are projected to gain 60 seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament (Knesset); one seat short of the 61 required for a governing majority, according to exit polls on Israel’s main TV channels.
On the other side, Netanyahu’s chief rival Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, got 32 or 33 seats, with his bloc on course to gain 54 seats, local media reported.
Polls also showed that the Joint List, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, is expected to gain 15 seats, possibly playing a role in blocking Netanyahu from retaining power.
These early results mark a major advancement in the premier’s performance compared with the last vote in September.
If he wins a majority, it would put him on the path of a new term. But if he fails, the country could face a fourth consecutive election. Official results are expected to come in throughout the night.
With his political future at stake and indicted for corruption in three cases, the right-wing PM has campaigned fiercely. He strongly appealed to the right in the hopes of rallying his nationalist base. He made the promise to expand and annex illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank if elected.