Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) shakes hands with supporters during a campaign trail in Or Yehuda, Israel, on March 16, 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an Israeli news website Monday that if he is elected in Tuesday's national elections,
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) shakes hands with supporters during a campaign trail in Or Yehuda, Israel, on March 16, 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an Israeli news website Monday that if he is elected in Tuesday's national elections, "there will be no Palestinian state." (Xinhua/JINI/Dani Maron)

by Keren Setton

Israelis voted on Monday in the unprecedented third election within one year to decide whether sitting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, will continue his fifth term.

The latest polls showed a deadlock between the main blocs, meaning there could be a fourth election.

In the opening hours of the polls, the voter turnout was higher than the last time, up 1.5 percent. The overall voter turnout in Israel’s last election stood at almost 70 percent.

There was fear that the voter fatigue would lead to a low turnout. But so far, it looks like that the majority of Israelis are fulfilling their civic duty.

Over 6 million Israelis are eligible to vote in almost 11,000 polling stations scattered around the country and 15 polling stations were set up throughout the country for Israelis under home quarantine because of the coronavirus.

The elections reflect that Israel as a country divided into two main camps, namely those who want to see Netanyahu stay and those who prefer someone else at the helm.

In two weeks, Netanyahu is scheduled to make his first court appearance as a defendant. He is being tried on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud. However, for his supporters, his legal troubles are not an issue.

Netanyahu’s main rival is Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party.

“The country deserves a cleaner state,” said Haim Fromowitz who voted for Blue and White.

“I don’t think that the ideological differences are so deep, but it’s time for a new leadership,” Fromowitz added.

“I hope that something will happen and there will not be a fourth election,” said Rivka Bitterman at a Jerusalem polling station.

“I think that we need to get to a final solution somehow … we need something concrete to get us ready to go as a country,” said another voter Reut.

“We will make a difference this time and we will win,” said Ira Brandwein who voted for Gantz.

Some voters who previously supported smaller parties have changed their votes to the larger parties in an attempt to break the standstill which the country has been in for over a year.

Uriel Sternschein from Jerusalem used to vote for the leftist Meretz party, but this time, he decided to vote for Blue and White.

“Even though I want Meretz in the government, maybe it’s not possible if there is no change of the government,” he said.

Shani Chemo previously voted for the hardline Jewish Strength party.

“I wanted to vote for them again, but I don’t want to reach a fourth election, so I voted Likud,” she told Xinhua.

According to the polls, both Likud and Blue and White will have a difficult time to form a coalition government, identical to the results of the last two elections.

The candidates need at least the 61-seat majority in order to swear in a government. The chances of an unstable political future are not slim and there is even a possibility that Israelis will go to the polls again within a matter of months.

“I do not think that we will go to a fourth election … because there will be a conclusive result. I just think that everyone will be fed up and then people will decide to do something different. I don’t know what that is, but not elections,” said voter Yael.

Polls in Israel’s election will close at 10 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Monday and the main television channels will publish their exit polls. Official results are expected in the following days. Enditem

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