Prime Minister Yair Lapid has congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu and instructed his staff to prepare an organised transition of power.

Lapid, who has served as interim prime minister for the past four months, makes the announcement just before the final results were released showing Netanyahu securing a parliamentary majority.
Lapid, who has served as interim prime minister for the past four months, makes the announcement just before the final results were released showing Netanyahu securing a parliamentary majority. (AA Archive)

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won this week's Israeli election, final results showed, clearing the way for him to return to power.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid congratulated Netanyahu and instructed his staff to prepare an organized transition of power, his office said on Thursday.

“The state of Israel comes before any political consideration," Lapid said. "I wish Netanyahu success, for the sake of the people of Israel and the state of Israel.”

Lapid, who has served as interim prime minister for the past four months, made the announcement just before the final results were released showing Netanyahu securing a parliamentary majority with his religious and ultranationalist allies.

Netanyahu is expected to form the country’s most right-wing government in history when he takes power, likely in the coming weeks.

With 32 seats for Netanyahu's Likud party, 18 for ultra-Orthodox parties and 14 for a far-right alliance, his right-wing bloc won a total of 64 seats, according to results published by the commission.

The opposition bloc of centrist outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid won 51 seats.

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Hard bargain

Netanyahu's top partner in the government is expected to be the far-right Religious Zionism party, whose main candidate, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is a disciple of a racist anti-Arab rabbi.

The surging power of Israel's right-wing came at the expense of its left flank. The Labor party, once a mainstream fixture of Israeli politics and which supports Palestinian statehood, was teetering just above the electoral threshold.

As vote counting neared an end, the anti-occupation Meretz appeared headed for political exile for the first time since it was founded in the 1990s.

Meretz's leader, Zehava Galon, conceded the party would not be in the next parliament. “This is a disaster for Meretz, a disaster for the country and yes, a disaster for me," she said.

Israel's ceremonial president will now tap one candidate, who will be Netanyahu, to form a government.

He will then have four weeks to do so. Netanyahu is likely to wrap up talks within that time, but Religious Zionism is expected to drive a hard bargain for its support.

The polarising Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader, was ousted in 2021 after 12 consecutive years in power by an ideologically-diverse coalition that included for the first time in Israel's history a small Arab party. The coalition collapsed in the spring over infighting.

Netanyahu is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and media moguls. He denies wrongdoing, seeing the trial as a witch hunt against him orchestrated by hostile media and a biased judicial system.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies