Israel PM Netanyahu vows to 'ensure welfare, security' of people

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to ensure the "welfare and security" of Israelis, after his rightwing Likud party won a resounding general election victory.

"I will do everything I can to ensure the welfare and security of all the citizens of Israel, and God willing, we will succeed and prosper," he said at Jerusalem's Western Wall - the holiest site at which Jews can pray.

"I am thrilled by the weight of responsibility the people of Israel have placed on my shoulders," he said.

"I appreciate this decision of the citizens of Israel to elect me and my partners against all chances and against great forces," he said.

The Likud rallied to take 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament) after Tuesday's vote, having been several seats behind the centre-left Zionist Union in polls published just days ahead of the election.

The Zionist Union secured 24 seats.

President Reuven Rivlin will still need to decide which party leader has the best chance of forming a coalition government, under Israel's proportional voting system.

But Netanyahu looks best-placed to do so, given almost guaranteed support from smaller rightwing and religious parties, and possible backing from centre-right Kulanu, whose leader Moshe Kahlon is expected to play the role of kingmaker.