Israelis head to the polls for fourth election in two years
Israelis returned to the polls on Tuesday for the fourth election in two years, as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks victory on the back of his high-speed vaccines drive and normalisation deals with Arab states. Mr Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, is leading in the polls but is projected to fall short of the 61 seats needed in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for a majority. He is likely to need support from right-wing rivals and ultra-orthodox parties to clear the threshold, though he also faces stiff competition from centrist leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party. Pollsters suspect that Tuesday’s vote will not resolve the deadlock, raising the wearisome prospect of a fifth election in the summer. “The question is whether there can be some sort of determining result that gives either side – the pro-Netanyahu parties or the parties that are trying to form a coalition without Netanyahu – a clear enough advantage,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, a political analyst and pollster. “At present, it doesn’t look like either side has sufficient votes to reach a decisive answer.” Dispatch: Benjamin Netanyahu in bid to woo Arab voters in Israel’s fourth election Casting his vote on Tuesday morning in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu said he hopes this will be the “last election” for some time, and claimed that only a vote for Likud could produce a stable, right-wing government. Voting in Tel Aviv, his rival Mr Lapid warned that Mr Netanyahu would preside over a “racist, homophobic government” if he continues as prime minister. With more than 50 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, Mr Netanyahu hopes that grateful Israelis will flock to the election booths to back Likud. The latest polls predict that Likud will win around 30 seats, compared to around 20 seats for his main centrist opponent, Yair Lapid. If Mr Netanyahu manages to unite right-wing and ultra-orthodox allies, the 71-year-old prime minister may find around 80 seats which would allow him to form a government. However, during more than a decade in power, the prime minister has alienated some allies who have since founded breakaway right-wing movements. They include Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu protegé and head of the Yamina party, and Gideon Sa’ar, the leader of new party New Hope. They are each projected to secure around 10 seats each. While Mr Sa’ar has ruled out serving in a Netanyahu government, Mr Bennett has left the door open to a future alliance, making his Yamina party a potential kingmaker.