Netanyahu with Cameron at his Jerusalem office in March.

Netanyahu with Cameron at his Jerusalem office on a previous occasion

Prime Minister David Cameron has congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu on his Likud Party’s success in the Israeli elections.

With nearly all votes counted, Likud is set to remain the biggest party in the Knesset, with an expected 30 out of 120 seats, putting Mr Netanyahu in a position to remain prime minister at the head of a coalition government with nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox allies.

In a message on Twitter, Mr Cameron said: “Congratulations to Netanyahu on election result. As one of Israel’s firmest friends, UK looks forward to working with new government.”

Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: “In terms of the Government’s approach to lasting peace in that region, it hasn’t changed and the PM set it out when he visited Israel 12 months or so ago. He wants to see peace, he wants to see a two-state solution and we are going to – as one of Israel’s firmest friends – continue to do what we can to support that goal.”

The final result in yesterday’s election represented a turnaround for Likud, which had trailed the opposition Zionist Union (ZU) in recent polls. Exit polls showed the two sides neck and neck in the race for largest party, but in the event Likud surged ahead of the centre-left ZU, which wound up with 24 seats.

Mr Netanyahu, who focused his campaign on security issues while opponents focused on the cost of living, told supporters: “Against all odds, we achieved a great victory for the Likud. I am proud of the people of Israel, who in the moment of truth knew how to distinguish between what is important and what is peripheral, and to insist on what is important.”

The right-of-centre premier’s return to power for a fourth term is likely to escalate international tensions over the Middle East peace process, after he declared that he now opposes the creation of a Palestinian state – a key policy goal of the US, Britain and the international community.