Israelis Go to Polls Fourth Time in Two Years – Array of Contenders Seek to Topple Netanyahu

Elections | March 23, 2021, Tuesday // 13:09|  views

Israelis began voting on Tuesday in a fourth election in two years, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoping a world-beating COVID-19 vaccine rollout will win him another term.

With coronavirus precautions at polling booths across the country - and ballots at the airport for quarantined Israelis coming home to vote - opinion polls show the race yet again too close to call.

Israel’s longest-serving head of government, Netanyahu has managed to hold on to power through two years of inconclusive elections despite facing corruption allegations. He is now on trial on bribery and abuse of power charges, which he denies.

Opinion polls indicated an uptick for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the campaign’s final days, giving him a prospective coalition of conservative and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties with around 60 seats in the 120-member parliament.

The dominant political figure of his generation, Netanyahu, 71, has been in power since 2009. But the Israeli electorate is deeply polarised, with supporters hailing him as “King Bibi” and opponents holding up placards calling him “Crime Minister”.

Yair Lapid, a former finance minister who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party, has emerged as Netanyahu’s main challenger.

On the campaign trail, Netanyahu has highlighted his role in securing millions of vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc, turning Israel into what he dubbed a “vaccination nation”.

Nearly half of Israelis have been fully inoculated with two doses, the fastest vaccine rollout in the world apart from the tiny British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

But there have also been calls for Israel to do more to ensure Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank receive vaccines. Some countries say Israel is responsible for vaccinations in territory it occupies; it argues that the Palestinians run their own health system.

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Tags: Israel, elections, Netanyahu

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