TEL-AVIV, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to create a broad coalition government on Wednesday, following a narrow victory for his bloc in an election that saw left and right take an almost equal number of seats.
"It is a great honor, but it is also a great responsibility. It is an opportunity to make changes that the citizens of Israel wish upon themselves and that will serve all the citizens of Israel," the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying. "I intend on making those changes by forming the broadest coalition possible, and I have begun working toward that tonight."
Incumbent prime minister Netanyahu, 63, had already claimed victory for his bloc, giving him a third premiership. His Likud-Beitenu bloc, formed with the Likud and Yisrael-Beitenu parties, took 31 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
With 99 percent of the vote counted, the poll left the remaining parties with the following results: Left-Center Yesh Atid party won 19 seats, Labor – 15, the ultra-religious Shas party – 11, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) – 11, United Torah Judaism – seven, Hatnuah – six, Meretz – six, United Arab List-Ta’al – five, Balad – three, and Kadima with two seats.
Netanyahu's bloc is likely to form a coalition with religious parties. Israel's President Shimon Peres will decide on who will form a cabinet. The constitution obliges him to hold talks with parties that have surpassed the minimum electoral barrier to enter parliament, and to choose a member of parliament most likely to be able to form a government majority of 61 seats or more.
Thirty-two parties took part in the election, in a proportional representation system.
Netanyahu has said his government's top priority will be preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.