Israelis vote for the fifth time in four years on Tuesday in an election in which former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comeback bid may depend on a far-right party.
Voter exasperation may hurt turnout, but surging support for the ultranationalist Religious Zionism bloc and firebrand co-leader Itamar Ben-Gvir has galvanized the race.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, is on trial for corruption. The largest party in parliament is expected to be the rightist Likud party.
He was still short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the Knesset, opening the possibility of weeks of coalition wrangling and possibly new elections.
The stalemate blocking Israel’s political system since Netanyahu was indicted has been caused by his legal battles, which have overshadowed policy disputes.
The rise of Ben-Gvir and fellow far-right leader Bezalel Smotrich has eaten into the traditional support of Netanyahu’s hawkish image.
Ben-Gvir was a member of Kach, a group about Israeli and U.S. issues. His record includes a conviction for racist incitement against Arabs and he announced on Sunday that he wanted to be police minister.
The record of the unlikely coalition formed after the last election that mixed right-wing, centrist, and, for the first time, an Arab party has been the focus of Lapid’s campaigning.
He points to diplomatic progress with Lebanon and Turkey, as well as a relatively restrained round of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.