Netanyahu declared victory early Friday over rival Gideon Saar in the primary election battle for leadership of the conservative Likud party.
“A huge win! Thank you to Likud members for their trust, support and love,” Netanyahu said in a tweet after polls closed at 11 p.m.
The victory secures Netanyahu’s place on the ballot for parliamentary elections to be held in March. This will be Israel’s third such election in the last year.
Voters kept away by bad weather
Initial results showed the prime minister with a comfortable margin over former education minister Saar. An official tally is expected later Friday morning.
Around 57,000 Likud party members cast their vote on Thursday, just under 50% of eligible voters. The voting window was extended due to stormy weather, which may have discouraged many from participating.
Netanyahu had called on party members to turn out to vote when, with only five hours remaining, only 30% had cast their vote.
“Everything is within reach, but only if you get out to vote. The low percentage of turnout hurts us,” he wrote on Twitter.
Saar was Netanyahu’s only primary opponent. He had announced his candidacy in November after Netanyahu was indicted for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.
The 70-year-old premier has denied the charges.
Third time’s the charm?
Likud party members have largely remained loyal to the prime minister. The party has only had four leaders since it was established in the 1970s.
While a Netanyahu victory was expected, support for Saar had grown leading up to the vote. Saar had said he would be better positioned to form a government after the new elections.
Neither Netanyahu nor centrist Blue and White party rival Benny Gantz were able to form a government after elections in September.
The Likud and Blue and White party were tied in both the September and March elections in 2019.
Israel’s next parliamentary election will be held on March 2.