Israelis trooped to the polls on Tuesday in what has turned out to a close fight between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the center-left Zionist Union led by Yitzhak Herzog.
The Zionist Union has promised to repair relations with the Palestinians as well as the international community, but Netanyahu said he will not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he wins a fourth term, BBC News reported.
Opinion polls suggest that the Zionist Union is likely to win the most seats, but the BBC said it might still be possible for Netanyahu to form a coalition government even if his Likud party fails to top the poll.
No party has ever won an outright majority in Israel’s election, meaning it has always been governed by a coalition, the news agency said.
Netanyahu, 65, has cast the threat to his reign as a foreign-orchestrated bid to install an Israeli leader who might yield to Palestinian statehood or nuclear diplomacy with Iran, Reuters reported.
“To prevent the rise to power of a left-wing party, there is only one thing to do — close the gap,” he said, hoping to rally religious-nationalist voters to his side.
Herzog, the head of Labour party, and his running mate, former peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, have accused Netanyahu of using security scares to distract from social issues like the high cost of living.
“Netanyahu is in a great panic, whereas for Tzipi Livni and me what is foremost is the good of the country,” Herzog, 54, said late on Monday. The election, he said, “is a choice between change and hope, and disappointment and downfall”.
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