Naftali Bennett, a former defence minister who heads the ultranationalist Yamina party emerged as a potential kingmaker. He has not committed publicly to joining either a Netanyahu-led parliamentary bloc or one comprising the premier’s opponents.
Not even a world-beating COVID-19 vaccination could push Israel’s longest-serving leader into a clear majority, according to the exit polls after voting ended in the country’s fourth election in two years.
Netanyahu, 71, had campaigned on his leadership credentials based on a programme that has seen nearly 50% of Israelis receiving two vaccine shots already. Corruption charges against him, in an ongoing trial, have weighed on his popularity. He has denied any wrongdoing.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Farrell, Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell)