Israel votes in second general election in five months
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a battle for political survival in a closely fought election on Tuesday that could end his 10-year domination of national politics.
COALITION TALKS HAVE FAILED
Opinion polls put former armed forces chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party neck-and-neck with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, and suggest the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party could emerge as kingmaker in coalition talks.
"The election is very close. I call on all citizens of Israel to come vote," Netanyahu said, his voice hoarse after weeks of campaigning, as he cast his vote in Jerusalem shortly before 10 a.m.
Gantz voted shortly afterwards in Rosh Haayin, and wished everyone luck.
The two main parties’ campaigns in Israel’s second parliamentary election in five months point to only narrow differences on many important issues: the regional struggle against Iran, ties with the Palestinians and the United States, and the economy.
An end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to lead to a big change in policy on hotly disputed issues in the peace process with the Palestinians that collapsed five years ago.
Netanyahu has announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians seek statehood. But Blue and White has also said it would strengthen Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, with the Jordan Valley as Israel’s "eastern security border".
The election was called after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following an April election in which Likud and Blue and White were tied, each taking 35 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament. It’s the first time Israel has ever had two general elections in a single year.