Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin appears to lead his main challenger following elections, with multiple exit polls putting his right-wing Likud several seats ahead of the centrist Blue and White party.

Exit polls by three Israeli television networks, released after polls closed, gave Likud between 36 and 37 seats in Israel's 120-member parliament against Blue and White's estimated 32 or 33. 

Those projections mark a major improvement on Likud's performance in Israel's last vote in September. 

Mr Netanyahu tweeted "thank you" after the polls. 

The estimates give Likud and its right-wing allies, including ultra-orthodox parties, 60 seats - one short of a majority.

In a statement, Likud said Mr Netanyahu had spoken with all the heads of right-wing parties and "agreed to form a strong national government for Israel as soon as possible."

Mr Netanyahu is due to appear in court later this month on a series of corruption charges. 

Blue and White along with its centre-left allies as well as the mainly Arab Joint List were projected to win between 52 and 54 seats. 

The nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which was in the position of kingmaker following inconclusive polls in April and September, was forecast to win between 6 and 8 seats. 

Resigned Israelis go to the polls for third time in a year