The race hasn't been officially called yet, but early exit polls suggest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political party -- Likud -- will almost certainly stay in power. As a result, Netanyahu himself has emphatically (if prematurely) called the election today "a great victory":
Against all odds:a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!— ?????? ?????? (@netanyahu) March 17, 2015
UPDATE: Apparently Bibi's victory is indeed a fait accompli:
From Israel, I'm now hearing that @Netanyahu has already lined up coalition with 64 seats.— Monica Crowley (@MonicaCrowley) March 17, 2015
UPDATE: For what it's worth, 61 seats are needed to form a government. A friendly reminder:
Under Israel's proportional electoral system, no party has ever won the 61 seats needed for an outright majority in the 120-member parliament — and it typically takes weeks of negotiations for a governing coalition to be formed.
UPDATE: The prime minister is also not directly-elected:
After the official parliamentary election result is published, Israel's president usually invites the leader of the party with the largest number of seats to form a government within 42 days.
If the leader forms a coalition, the Knesset holds a vote of confidence in that group and the government is approved by a vote of at least 61 members.
So bear that in mind.
UPDATE: Perhaps the election might actually be close:
#i24elections Exit polls: Likud - 27; Zionist Union - 27; Joint Arab List - 13— i24news_EN (@i24news_EN) March 17, 2015
UPDATE: Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Israeli Labor Party (part of the Zionist Union political alliance with Hatnuah) and Leader of the Opposition, stressed that their election results were the best since 1992, and that he will try to form a government. Also, 71.3 percent of Israeli soldiers voted in today's elections.
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli opposition leader Herzog says he will make 'every effort' to form coalition.— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 17, 2015
UPDATE: Watch the livestream of the Israeli election results on i24news.
UPDATE: Netanyahu has finished delivering his victory speech.
This is a great victory for our nation. I'm proud of people of Israel who in the moment of truth knew what was important.— ?????? ?????? (@netanyahu) March 17, 2015
Every family, soldier, citizen, Jewish or not are important to me! We will form a strong government to work for them.— ?????? ?????? (@netanyahu) March 17, 2015
UPDATE: More on the Israeli elections from the AP:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have fended off a strong challenge from the country's opposition leader in parliamentary elections Tuesday, emerging from an acrimonious campaign in a slightly better position to form Israel's next government.
But with the sides nearly evenly divided, a victory by Netanyahu's Likud Party still was not guaranteed. His chief rival, Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, said he would make "every effort" to form a government, and an upstart centrist party led by a former Netanyahu ally-turned-rival was set to be the kingmaker. The country now heads into weeks of negotiations over the makeup of the next coalition.
Both Netanyahu and Herzog will now compete for a chance to form a coalition that commands a majority in the 120-seat parliament, a daunting task in Israel's fractured political landscape. Netanyahu appeared to have a better chance of cobbling together a government with right-wing and religious parties. Herzog would have to appeal to more ideologically diverse parties.