JERUSALEM, March 18 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party won a conclusive victory, taking about 30 seats in Tuesday's election that was too close to call even when polls closed.
Netanyahu addressed his supporters.
"Dear friends, against all odds we have achieved a great victory for Likud, for the national camp which is headed by Likud, for our people. I am proud of the Israeli people, who recognized what's important ... and stood up for real security, economy and social welfare, which we are committed to.
More than 99 percent of ballots are counted and Likud's main opposition party, the Zionist Union, is set to win 24 seats. Isaac Herzog, Zionist Union leader, conceded and congratulated Netanyahu.
Herzog and Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni made a joint statement.
"This is not an easy morning for us and for those who believe in our way. We will lead the fight, together with our partners in Knesset, for the values believe in. We will fight on behalf of the citizens of Israel for social justice, diplomatic horizon, equality and democracy in hope that we can maintain a just, safe Jewish and democratic state. We thank from the bottom of our heart to all those who believe in us and in our way."
The Joint List party of several, small Arab parties came in third place with 14 seats.
When polls closed for the Knesset election, Israel's unicameral legislative branch, Likud and the Zionist Union were tied at 27 seats. As more votes were being counted, Likud gained seats while the Zionist Union lost them.
There are 120 seats in the Knesset and since no party has ever won a majority of seats, including this year's election, party leaders must form alliances to form a government.
The parties that will join Netanyahu's majority government are still unannounced.
Voter turnout was the highest it's been in Israel since 1999 with about 71 percent of eligible voters casting ballots on Tuesday.
Netanyahu declared a "great victory" late Tuesday even as votes were being counted and the election was still too close to call.
"Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud, a major victory for the national camp led by the Likud, a major victory for the people of Israel," he wrote in both Hebrew and English on Twitter.