Israelis are voting on Tuesday to choose the next party to lead the 21st Knesset in an election that pits incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Benny Gantz, former army chief of staff, with 37 other parties in the running.
Polls opened from 7am (04:00 GMT) to 10pm (19:00 GMT) at 10,720 polling stations.
Israeli citizens aged 18 and over, including those living in occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank, are eligible to vote. Israeli law excludes expats currently abroad from voting.
The 4.8 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza do not have voting rights.
According to the polls, Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party and Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party are running in a close race for prime minister. The position is chosen by the Israeli president, on the recommendations of Knesset Members (MK).
At a polling station in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem, Yafit Scherer called voting an important privilege.
“I voted for Gantz. I want to change the government. I don’t want Netanyahu to continue being PM. [Netanyahu] is a very intelligent and smart person. He’s brilliant but he needs to go,” she said.
The final poll published by Israel’s Channel 13 before the election showed the Likud and Blue and White in a dead heat with each gaining 28 seats.
The poll also predicted that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc would win 66 Knesset seats, with Israel’s centre-left parties winning 54, as reported by Israeli Haaretz.
On Thursday, Israel’s Channel 12 released a poll in which respondents were asked who they would prefer to see as prime minister: 37 percent answered Netanyahu and 35 percent said Gantz.
Asked who they believe would form a governing coalition, 58 percent of respondents answered Netanyahu.
However, Netanyahu has been urging voters to head to the polls in a last-minute plea, warning that Likud was trailing behind the Blue and White party, according to Hebrew media.
“People think that we’re going to win, so they’re not coming to vote,”Netanyahu reportedly said at a meeting late Monday night with MKs and Likud members. — Al Jazeera