ISRAEL HAYO / JNS.ORG //

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his position after his Likud-Beytenu party alliance won 31 Knesset mandates, followed by Yesh Atid at 19, the Central Elections Commission confirmed Wednesday.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Israeli citizens during a recent visit to the southern city of Ashdod. PHOTO / Yossi Zamir-Flash90

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Israeli citizens during a recent visit to the southern city of Ashdod. PHOTO / Yossi Zamir-Flash90

Just after 10 p.m. Israeli time Tuesday, Netanyahu declared victory with a message on his Facebook page.

“I wish to thank the millions of the citizens of Israel who carried out their democratic right today. According to the exit polls it is clear that the citizens of Israel have decided that they want me to continue in the position of prime minister of Israel and that I form as wide a coalition government as possible,” Netanyahu wrote.

At 6 a.m. Wednesday Israeli time the Central Elections Committee released its final results after counting 3,616,947 votes. While the final results could change the overall picture by one or two seats, the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads with 31 seats, followed by the surprise of these elections, the Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid, with 19 seats.

Labor, led by Shelly Yachimovich, came in third with 15 seats — a number considered a great disappointment for the social democratic party.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party received 11, and Habayit Hayehudi, led by Naftali Bennett, garnered 11 too. The Ashkenazi haredi party United Torah Judaism received 7 seats, followed by Hatnuah, led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, with 6 seats.

Left-wing Meretz, under Zahava Gal-On, doubled its electoral strength to win 6 seats. Arab-Israeli voter turnout was low, once again, with Ra’am-Ta’al leading the pack with 5 seats; Hadash received 4, and the National Democratic Assembly received 3.

Kadima, which was the largest party in the 2009 elections with 28 seats, crashed to 2 seats, and may still not pass the electoral threshold once all the votes are tallied. Far-right Strong Israel did not pass the threshold.

Speaking to party supporters after midnight, Netanyahu said the election results provided an opportunity to carry out reforms that the citizens of Israel were demanding and that would serve the entire country.

Netanyahu said his government would be based on five central pillars: “Strengthening Israel’s security in the face of the challenges ahead and especially Iran; fiscal responsibility in the global economic downturn; diplomatic responsibility in our constant striving for a true peace; increasing equality in the national burden, and a reduction in the cost of living with a special emphasis on the price of housing.”