This "could well mean a more right-wing government than that he currently heads, though -- depending on what deals he is able to cut -- this is hardly a foregone conclusion."
Will the government include centrists and leftists?
One of the positives for the center-left, which had been more dominant in other times, is that Netanyahu might want political flexibility. If an opportunity for peace negotiations with Palestinians would present itself, for example, he would want wiggle room to operate.
Three main left or centrist parties have emerged, with Labor predicted as getting the second highest number of seats in the high teens after Likud-Beitenu.
"In contrast to Netanyahu's merger, efforts to unite center-left parties have floundered thus far, drastically hurting their prospects," Makovsky said.
Labor's Yacimovich has focused her energy almost solely on economic issues, roiling Israeli citizens. She doesn't much touch on foreign policy as the party had in the past.
Yesh Atid is focused on the economy and halting the military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox civilians. Its leader is Yair Lapid, whose late father, Tommy Lapid, led Shinui, a onetime secularist party that took on the influence and power of the ultra-Orthodox.
Hatnua is led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She too is focused on the economy and backs Israel-Palestinian peace talks. Her emergence raises a question: Would she be a good fit for foreign minister or another Cabinet position in a Netanyahu government?
There is the once-mighty Kadima, the breakaway from Likud and Livni's former party, that many analysts say is freefalling and in danger of disappearing.
One poll said Yesh Atid could get 11 seats and Hatnua, eight. There are other parties on the left, including Meretz.
"What is noted less often, however, is that left-wing parties have also gained," Singh said.
Arab parties are perpetual bridesmaids in new governments
Then there are Israeli Arab/Palestinian parties, long a presence in the Knesset but never included in a government coalition.
But they and their constituents are politically diverse and continue to play a role in Israeli politics, said George Jakaman, a political analyst at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.
At the same time, he said, there is a common denominator, -- the fight against inequality and economic and social discrimination.
Hanin Zoabi -- the first Palestinian woman to get a seat in the Knesset and running again -- laid out the uncomfortable reality.
"Israel considers itself to be a Jewish state, not a state for all its citizens and in Israel it is part of the logic of the system to give privileges to the Jews at the expense of the Arabs, either in land, land confiscation, budget, health care, economic rights even the recognition of my identity," she told CNN.
"Israel does not recognize me as Palestinian. Israel wants me to be Arab Israeli, something which we don't understand."
Jakaman said Netanyahu's return to power is expected, and that does not bode well for the resumption of the moribund Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Netanyahu has been more focused on Iran, not the resumption of settlements, he said.
"If he accepts the conditions of the former foreign minister of Israel, Livni, as a condition of joining a coalition," he might be more willing to pursue talks.
"If he accepts this, there's a chance his coalition government will not be completely right-wing," Jakaman said.
What would new government mean for U.S.-Israeli relations?
Iran's nuclear aspirations haven't always been front and center throughout the campaign.
"This campaign has been more of a personality competition rather a debate over the strategic issues facing Israel," Malka said. "So Iran has surprisingly played a minor role."
But Netanyahu is quoted as telling U.S. senators that "my priority, if I'm elected for a next term as prime minister, will be first to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons."
Both Israel and the United States have long been concerned over the danger of Iran having the capability of building a nuclear weapon.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu have differed on how to approach this and the settlement issue. They will have to deal with one another, despite reported friction. But this time there will be new players.
Makovsky said that the "most important outcome of Israel's electoral maneuvering" from an American perspective "may be its impact on Netanyahu's top Cabinet ministers."
"Defense Minister Ehud Barak -- Washington's primary interlocutor on Iran and a host of other foreign policy and security issues -- has announced his retirement from Knesset campaigning, though he has not ruled out a return to government if invited," he said.
"Washington is bound to become more concerned about whether Netanyahu will include political opponents in his coalition -- and, if not, whether more 'E-1'-type moves are ahead."
Israelis are concerned about the U.S. national security team.
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, who has been criticized by some pro-Israel supporters, got the nod from Obama for defense secretary.
Sen. John Kerry, nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, is regarded as a friend of Israel but "also a staunch critic of Israel's settlement policy," Ynetnews.com reported.
He will deal with Israeli issues and other key foreign policy matters as Obama handles a full plate of domestic matters -- such as the debt ceiling and gun control.
Disagreements between the Obama administration and supporters of the West Bank settlements persist.
"A right-wing government is more likely to come into diplomatic conflict with the United States and Europe," Malka said.
Singh says Israelis are concerned about security but are pragmatic and want peace. He cites a poll showing "an even split on dismantling settlements outside the major blocs" and "strong support" for a two-state solution.
"This deep -- if flickering -- desire for peace is an opportunity for the Obama administration, and the data also point to a policy path for seizing it. That path must begin with a return to basics." Singh said.
"President Obama must avoid desperation in either of its primary modes -- Hail Mary peace plans or glum inaction. It is never a bad time to push for peace; but making progress will require patient preparation, followed by consistent, unflinching, and unglamorous work."