Netanyahu claims election win despite losses
JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged the bruised winner of Israel's election on Tuesday, claiming victory despite unexpected losses to resurgent centre-left challengers.
Exit polls showed the Israeli leader's Likud party, yoked with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu group, would still be the biggest bloc in the 120-member assembly with 31 seats, 11 fewer than the 42 they held in the previous parliament.
If the exit polls compiled by three local broadcasters prove correct - and they normally do in Israel - Mr Netanyahu would be on course for a third term in office, perhaps leading a hardline coalition that would promote Jewish settlement on occupied land.
But his weakened showing in an election he himself called earlier than necessary could complicate the struggle to forge an alliance with a stable majority in parliament.