Benjamin Netanyahu set to form government after Israeli PM concedes defeat in election

Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid has conceded defeat to former PM Benjamin Netanyahu in this week's election.

Mr Netanyahu, 73, is expected to form the country's most right-wing government in history when he takes power, likely in the coming weeks.

Mr Lapid said he had congratulated Mr Netanyahu and had instructed his office to prepare an organised transition of power.

"The state of Israel comes before any political consideration," caretaker prime minister Mr Lapid said in a statement.

"I wish Netanyahu success, for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel."

Although final results were still being tallied, Mr Lapid's concession indicates an official nod that Mr Netanyahu would be returning to power, securing a parliamentary majority with his religious and ultranationalist allies.

On Tuesday, Israel held its fifth election in four years which saw voters divided over Mr Netanyahu's fitness to serve while on trial for corruption.

Israeli election officials were tallying the final votes from national elections today, with Mr Netanyahu looking likely to reclaim the premiership with a comfortable majority backed by far-right allies.

Mr Netanyahu's top ally is expected to be the far-right Religious Zionism party, whose main candidate, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is a disciple of an anti-Arab rabbi and has promised to deport Arab legislators.

The controversial Mr Ben-Gvirn, who has been convicted for incitement to racism and was once declared unfit for office by Mr Netanyahu himself, is expected to seek a cabinet position as head of the ministry that oversees policing.

Mr Netanyahu is Israel's longest-serving leader and 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.

In June 2021, centrist Yair Lapid managed to stitch together an unlikely coalition government of liberals, right-wing and Arab parties - but the coalition collapsed in the spring over infighting.

Mr Netanyahu is currently standing trial on corruption charges and has turned to far-right parties in a bid to build a coalition after becoming alienated by many of his traditional allies.