Israelis to decide Netanyahu’s fate in 3rd election in less than a year

Israelis were voting Monday in the country’s unprecedented third election in less than a year to decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite his upcoming criminal trial on corruption charges.

Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, has been the caretaker prime minister for more than a year as a divided Israel has weathered two inconclusive elections and a prolonged political paralysis. With opinion polls forecasting another deadlock, Netanyahu is seeking a late surge in support to score a parliamentary majority along with other nationalist parties that will deliver him a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall.

He faces a stiff challenge once again from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud on a campaign message that Israel’s longtime prime minister is unfit to lead because of the serious charges against him.

Both parties appear unable to form a coalition with their traditional allies. With the prospect of a unity government between them seemingly off the table after a particularly nasty campaign, Monday’s vote may well turn into merely a preamble to another election.

“I hope that today marks the start of a healing process, where we can begin living together again,” Gantz said upon voting in his hometown of Rosh Ha’ayin in central Israel, warning voters not to “get drawn in by the lies or by the violence” after the acrimonious election campaign.

There was little fanfare in the days leading up to the vote, with a noticeable absence of campaign posters on the streets and public rallies that typically characterize the run-up to Israeli elections. With voter fatigue clearly a factor, turnout could prove to be decisive. Election day is a national holiday in Israel and the country usually boasts one of the highest voter turnouts among Western democracies. But the second repeat vote and fears of the new coronavirus, which has so far has been kept largely in check, look to hinder turnout.

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