FRANCE 24's Irris Makler reports from Jerusalem

Netanyahu's main election challenger, centrist Benny Gantz, said on Wednesday it appeared from the exit polls that Israel's longest-serving leader was defeated but that only official results would tell. In his own speech to right-wing Likud party faithful, Netanyahu, sipping water frequently and speaking in a hoarse voice, made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, saying he was awaiting a vote tally. Netanyahu's appearance in the dead of night at Likud election headquarters was a far cry from his triumphant declaration five months ago that he had won a close election. His failure to form a government after the April ballot led to the new election on Tuesday.