REUTERS/David Buimovitch/Pool (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS)
REUTERS/David Buimovitch/Pool (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS)

Jerusalem: Israelis began voting Tuesday in the country’s most closely-fought election in years that could propel incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces the ignominy of being indicted in a series of graft cases, to become the longest serving premier in the Jewish state’s history. Over 10,000 polling stations opened around the country from 7:00 am (local time) Tuesday to allow more than 6.33 million eligible voters to cast their ballots.

The results will start coming in at 22:00 (local time) Tuesday. Prime Minister Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud Party, is seeking a fifth term in office. But he is facing serious corruption allegations and a stiff challenge from former army chief Benny Gantz in the polls that have been seen as heavily divisive. Gantz, who voted in his hometown of Rosh Haayin, called for a “new path.” “I’m happy to stand for the good of the citizens on a new path,” the 59-year-old retired general said after casting his ballot. “We shall respect democracy and call for a respectful and quiet day from all sides.”

All the recent poll surveys have shown Gantz’s Blue and White party in a close race with Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, or even performing slightly better to emerge as the single largest party, but the 69-year-old prime minister looks much well placed to garner a coalition given the dominance of the right-wing bloc which looks set to win majority seats in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli parliament). However, many analysts have not ruled out the possibility of a unity government, despite the two main rivals ruling out the possibility of joining hands, given that the elections may be followed by US President Donald Trump’s peace plan which may drive a wedge in a possible right-wing coalition.

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