Netanyahu hopes to form new Israel govt ‘in 2-3 weeks’

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to form a new government within weeks after defying the polls to seal a clear election win, his rightwing Likud party said on Wednesday.

“The prime minister intends to begin forming the government immediately in order to finish the task within two to three weeks,” a party statement said.

It said Netanyahu had already spoken overnight with the leaders of smaller parties he saw as likely coalition partners.

It was referring to the leaders of the far-right Jewish Home party, the hardline Yisrael Beitenu and the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

With nearly all the votes counted, Likud won 23.26 per cent of the vote to 18.73 per cent for its centre-left rival, Zionist Union, giving them 30 and 24 seats respectively.

The Joint List, which groups the main Arab parties, followed with 10.98 per cent, which equates to 14 seats, meaning they will be the third largest force in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

Jewish Home won eight seats, Yisrael Beitenu six, Shas seven and UTJ six, meaning that, with Likud, the rightwing-religious bloc looks to have secured 57 seats.