[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/02/11/israel.elections.polls/art.netanyahu.gi.jpg caption="Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara vote in Jerusalem on Tuesday."]
One by one, in reverse order, the leaders of Israel's top three political parties appeared on television the night of the Feb. 10 elections and declared victory. This was clever, since none of them had really won. Avigdor Lieberman, whose extreme anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu party finished third, went on first.
His party had surged in the final weeks and would now, he boasted, be "the key" to forming a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset. Maybe. Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party finished second, appeared next. He had won, he said, because Likud was the leading right-wing party and conservatives of various stripes had gained a majority of seats in the Knesset.
But Netanyahu had been expecting a big victory; his support had plummeted in the last days. Finally, there was Tzipi Livni, whose moderate Kadima party won one more seat than Likud ... but didn't really win either, because Netanyahu was right: he would probably have an easier path to building a parliamentary majority than Livni would.
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