Netanyahu’s career on the line as Israel votes
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis voted Tuesday in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power, despite a likely indictment on corruption charges.
Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall.
But he faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud.
Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.
Throughout an abbreviated but alarmist campaign characterised by mudslinging and slogans condemned as racist, Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a seasoned statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times.
Gantz has tried to paint Netanyahu as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and honest alternative.
After casting his ballot in Jerusalem, Netanyahu predicted the vote would be “very close.”
“It’s not in the bag. But if you go (vote), we will win,” Netanyahu blared through a megaphone to shoppers at a Jerusalem market, after stopping at other Likud strongholds in the city.
Voting in his hometown of Rosh Haayin in central Israel, Gantz urged all Israelis to hope. “We will bring hope, we will bring change, without corruption, without extremism,” he said.
The election marks their second showdown of the year after drawing even in the previous one in April.
At the time, Netanyahu appeared to have won another term, with his traditional allies of nationalist and ultra-religious Jewish parties controlling a parliamentary majority.