Three separate exit surveys released on Tuesday showed that Netanyahu's right-wing Likud is projected to garner between 31 and 32 parliament seats each out of 120, while his main challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance is leading with 32 Knesset seats.
In all three polls, the Joint List of Arab parties is projected to have the third most seats, while far-right Yamina party, led by Ayelet Shaked, is projected to win 6-7 seats.
Former minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party is expected to receive between eight and nine seats, according to the polls.
With neither Netanyahu nor Gantz appear to have gained a 61-seat majority, the two are likely to head to deliberations with President Reuven Rivlin, who will determine which of them gets the mandate to try and form a governing coalition.
Speaking to a half-empty hall at the Likud campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu vowed to form a “strong and Zionist” administration, warning his supporters of a “dangerous and anti-Zionist” regime.
The Israeli prime minister added he already began negotiations with Likud’s potential coalition partners on the right wing. “They all committed to pursue our goals together. This election has been one of the toughest we’d known,” he said.
Gantz said Tuesday overnight he would work to establish a unity administration.
“We stuck to our mission and to our path,” Gantz said at his party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, hours after exit polls show his party has secured a lead over Likud.
Gantz went on to say that exit polls show Netanyahu failed in his reelection bid. “This is the start of the journey to mend the Israeli society,” he commented.
Lieberman, for his part, called for a unity administration with his party, Likud and Blue and White as he addressed supporters, saying Israel was facing an "emergency".
“There is only one option for us,” he said, adding the administration should exclude the country's ultra-Orthodox religious parties, which he accuses of having undue influence on politics
Hamas condemns Israel’s general election
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has strongly slammed Israel’s snap polls, stating that the election guarantees further expropriation of occupied Palestinian lands.
The movement said those contesting in the vote have been encouraging the Israeli regime to intensify its attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip, and violate the rights of Palestinians.
It also described Israeli voters as alien settlers, who have stolen Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian resistance movement finally denounced Israel as a usurper entity which owes its existence to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.