Israelis began voting in an election on Tuesday (April 9) that could hand conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record fifth term or see him dethroned by an ex-general who has pledged clean government and social cohesion.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) across the country and will close at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT). But the victor may not be decided immediately.
No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations will lie ahead.
Dubbed “King Bibi” by both Time and Economist magazines, Netanyahu has rallied a rightist camp hardened against the Palestinians and played up Israeli foreign policy boons that are the fruit of his ties with the Trump administration.
But the 69-year-old Likud party leaders hope of overtaking Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, as longest-serving premier in July has been dented by a looming graft indictment. He denies any wrongdoing.
Critics warn of “Bibi fatigue” and argue that the parliamentary election should bring fresh faces to high office.
Stalking Netanyahu in the opinion polls has been Benny Gantz, a former chief of the armed forces and centrist political novice.
Buttressed by two other former generals at the top of his Blue and White party, Gantz, 59, has sought to push back against Netanyahu’s self-styled image as unrivalled in national security.