Official election returns give Likud more decisive margin of victory
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Official election returns give Likud more decisive margin of victory

Benjamin Netanyahu celebrates on Election Day as unofficial results show his Likud Party with 27 or 28 seats in Israel's Knesset, March 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrating on Election Day as unofficial results showed his Likud Party with 29 seats in Israel’s Knesset, March 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

(JTA) — Official Israeli election returns showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party heading toward a decisive victory over Zionist Union.

Election returns that came in just before dawn showed Likud taking 29 seats over Zionist Union’s 24, according to Israeli reports.

The results represented a dramatic improvement in Likud’s fortunes just hours after exit polling indicated the party was in a virtual dead heat with Zionist Union.

Exit polls released by three Israeli television channels just as the polls closed at 10 p.m. local time showed Likud and Zionist Union each taking about 27 seats. But as official returns trickled in through the night, Likud saw its position improve significantly.

According to The Jerusalem Post, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Likud had won 29 seats, Zionist Union 24 and the Joint Arab List 14. Yesh Atid finished fourth with 11 seats, followed by Jewish Home with eight, and Shas and United Torah Judaism with seven each. Next were Yisrael Beiteinu with six and Meretz with four.