"We promised that something new would begin, and today something new began in the nation of Israel," Naftali Bennett said late Tuesday night shortly after exit polls indicated that his rightist Habayit Hayehudi party won 12 mandates in the national elections."
Addressing supporters at the party's headquarters in Ramat-Gan, Bennett said, "Today we built a new home in the State of Israel; a new home for those who want an Israel that has confidence in itself, that believes in its strength. Our enemies will know that you do not mess with the State of Israel.
- Op-ed: Apocalypse tomorrow
- Yesh Atid 'took back the country'
- Yachimovich insists: Political upset possible
"Today we built a new home for all those who love the IDF and its fighters; for all those who will not allow the hands of our fighters to be tied and will not allow them to be called war criminals here and (abroad)," he said.
Bennett supports at Kfar HaMaccabiah in Ramat-Gan (Photo: Benny Deutch)
Supporters who waited for Bennett's arrival waved Israeli flags and chanted "Am Yisrael Chai ("Nation of Israel lives"). Uri Ariel, number two on the party's Knesset roster, said "We want to be part of the next coalition, but it takes two to tango."
A number of activists expressed disappointment over the results, as polls leading up to Tuesday's election predicted that Habayit Hayehudi would win 14 Knesset seats.
"Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, one of the party's founders and a former chief military rabbi, told Ynet "Apparently something happened over the past few days and Likud's aggressive, inciting campaign was successful among secular undecided voters. We expected a larger number of mandates, but the number of mandates we won is a historic and unprecedented achievement."
Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent Maor Buchnik contributed to this report