The election follows inconclusive votes last April and September that demonstrated that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is not invincible and can, in fact, fall.
It is likely, however, that the election will not be conclusive and end up in another deadlock. Opinion polls forecast that neither Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud nor the centrist Blue and White party of his main challenger, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz, will win enough votes on their own, or with coalition allies, for a governing majority in parliament.
For almost 12 months Israel has been in a state of political crisis after two previous general elections failed to produce a clear winner.
Netanyahu hopes a peace plan that U.S. President Donald Trump presented in January will help him win an unprecedented fifth term though the Palestinians have rejected it. Netanyahu says recognition of Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank will enable him to annex them within weeks of the election.
Gantz has focused his campaign on Netanyahu’s alleged corruption and anti-democratic moves, but he also failed to form a government after coming out marginally ahead in the previous election. He calls Netanyahu “the defendant”.
Netanyahu calls Gantz a “coward” incapable of confronting the dangers Israel faces and has suggested he is hiding secrets that would open him to blackmail by its foe Iran.