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Exit polls released by the three major television networks at around 10 pm predicted that Yair Lapid's party would have 18-19 representatives in the next Knesset. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's joint Likud-Beiteinu list won the election s with 31 mandates, according to the polls.
Despite Netanyahu's victory, Labor leaders expressed hope that the results will change the balance of power in Israel's political arena.
Labor headquarters, Tuesday (Photo: Avisag She'ar Yeshuv)
Yachimovich explained: "Undoubtedly, a political drama is unfolding before our eyes. The final results of this drama will be known only in the morning. We'll wait for the official results. There is a high probability that there will be an upset and an end to the Netanyahu government."
Labor Secretary-General Hilik Bar, number six on the party's list said, "We proved that the Labor Party cannot be killed. We proved what Shelly has been saying all along, that Bibi was not anointed king and he can be replaced. The division (of mandates) can change overnight, and there are other parties that can join the bloc we are leading. We may wake up with a new prime minister."
Bar estimated that Yachimovich will not recommend that Lapid form the next government, but said "Those who voted for him did so because they want change, and if you want change you don't anoint Netanyahu again."
Despite the party leaders' optimism, Labor activists did not hide their disappointment. "Yair Lapid passed us. We didn't expect it," one of them said. "However, we find comfort in the fact that the leftist bloc won enough mandates and can block the Right. But we certainly feel that an opportunity has been missed."
Another activist said, "We expected more, but at least we can talk about Likud's collapse."
Aviad, who is also a Labor supporter, said Yesh Atid "will not be around for long. The fact that according to the polls it is the second largest party shows that the public acted irresponsibly."
Shahar Chai and Moran Azulay are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents