5 questions about Netanyahu's apparent victory

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters in Tel Aviv after his apparent election victory.

Story highlights

  • CNN's Elise Labott holds Facebook chat about Israeli election results
  • She answers questions about why polls were wrong, why Americans should care

Jerusalem (CNN)After a bitter campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming victory as his main rival Isaac Herzog concedes. Many questions linger about exactly what this means for U.S.-Israeli relations and Israel's standing in the Middle East.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has been covering the Israel election in depth and took to Facebook to answer your questions about the election.
Here are five highlights from the chat:
    1) How did the race go from exit polls saying it was a neck-and-neck race to Netanyahu claiming victory within a matter of hours?
    I know, right? It's a great mystery as to how the exit polls got it so wrong. There's one pollster here in Israel named Avi Degani who predicted that Netanyahu would win all along. He said that the polls here in Israel rely too heavily on modern methodology and aren't really suitable for people outside city centers like Tel Aviv.
    There's also the question of whether Netanyahu gained more seats because of the 11th-hour push to the right. Part of the explanation is that he cannibalized votes from the other right-wing parties. Also worth noting that Israeli elections always have surprises. In the last election, no one predicted the amazing turnout for Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party won 19 seats. This time, he only won around 11.
    2) What does Netanyahu have planned for his next term?
    That's the $6 million question. The Obama administration was waiting for the election to be over to see who they would be dealing with. They knew even if Prime Minister Netanyahu won re-election, they would need to re-engage with him. I think both sides realize that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is too important to continue as it has been. But I think the tone Prime Minister Netanyahu sets now will dictate how the White House deals with him.
    Elise Labott participates in a Facebook chat about the Israeli elections from the CNN Jerusalem bureau.
    3) What is Netanyahu's plan regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
    In the final days before the election, Prime Minister Netanyahu made a big push to energize his right-wing base. He promised that there would not be a Palestinian state under his watch, backtracking from a commitment he made in 2009 for a two-state solution. Now the right wing that helped keep him in office is going to be looking for him to deliver on his campaign pledge. It's not encouraging. Now that he has a new mandate, perhaps he will feel more confident to explore possibilities with Palestinians. However the unilateral moves Palestinians have taken since the collapse of peace talks last summer doesn't give him much encouragement either.
    4) Was Netanyahu's statement about not recognizing a Palestinian state a political move to get votes, or a true ideal he wants to hold up?
    It's a great question that nobody knows the answer to just yet. Even the Netanyahu camp would admit that they made a conscious effort to reach out to right-wing voters, many of whom do not want to see a Palestinian state.
    For many years Netanyahu has at least agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians, even if sometimes actions like continued settlement activity call into question his true commitment. It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu considers his re-election as a mandate from the right to govern in this hard-line way or whether he will try to soften these hard-line positions. In the hard-line way is how he appeared in the final days of the campaign.
    5) As an American, what impact do the Israeli election results have on me? In other words, why do I need to care?
    I think Israel is a very important ally of the United States in a region where there is a hell of a lot of turmoil. The U.S. looks to Israel as a stable democracy with whom it shares, for the most part, similar values and interests.
    Clearly the relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama has soured the ties between the two nations. Whether the two leaders can repair the relationship now that Netanyahu has been re-elected will, in large part, dictate how they work together. As an American, whether the U.S. has a friend in this volatile region does impact our national security.