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.

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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.

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Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, is on trial for corruption. The largest party in parliament is expected to be the rightist Likud party.

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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.

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The stalemate blocking Israel’s political system since Netanyahu was indicted has been caused by his legal battles, which have overshadowed policy disputes.

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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.

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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.

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He points to diplomatic progress with Lebanon and Turkey, as well as a relatively restrained round of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

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