Elections for the 21st Knesset are underway in Israel and anticipation is running high as the general election is one of the country’s tightest races in years. Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister but he has been plagued by allegations of corruption. His right-wing party Likud faces a big challenge from centrist Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party. Voters are choosing between a record 39 parties in total in the country’s first Knesset election in four years.
The Knesset is the Israeli government’s legislative arm with powers to elect the prime minister and president, plus approve the Government’s Cabinet, in addition to passing laws.
What time do the polls open and close?
Polling stations opened at 5am BST (7am local time) and will not close until 8pm BST (10pm local time) tonight when exit polls open.
The results are expected to follow over a number of hours overnight.
Politicians have already been casting their votes in the ballot box this morning.
Mr Netanyahu is expected to vote in Jerusalem at 8.30am BST (10.30am local time).
Earlier, his main rival Mr Gantz, 59, visited a polling station in his home town of Rosh Hayin at 6am BST (8am local time).
Mr Gantz surged into the lead in the final polls of the campaign on Friday.
The results showed his party could win six of the 120 parliament seats up for grabs and have a role as kingmaker as coalition deals are brokered.
No party has ever won an outright majority meaning there could be days or even weeks of coalition negotiations ahead.
Mr Netanyahu faced criticism in February for his assistance in passing a deal to let candidates from extremist right-wing parties enter into parliament.
The 69-year-old, dubbed “King Bibi” has hardened his stance against Palestinians.
His strong alliance with US President Donald Trump has also seen him play up Israel’s foreign policy on the world stage.
But his hopes of becoming the longest-serving premier, overtaking Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, is at serious risk over allegations of corruption.
His reputation has taken a battering from a looming graft indictment, something Mr Netanyahu denies.
Both he and Mr Gantz have ruled out any possible coalition between their two parties at this current time.