Israelis are heading to polling stations to cast their ballots in their third general election in less than a year after the two largest parties failed to achieve a power-sharing government.
Opinion polls in the lead-up to Saturday’s vote forecast a tight race between embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party and who is facing trial for corruption, and former army chief Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White alliance.
Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main challenger, Benny Gantz, were able to put together majority coalitions following the last two elections.
The final opinion polls suggested the latest round is too close to call.
Mr Netanyahu is seeking re-election two weeks before he is due to stand trial on corruption charges.
He has been ordered to appear in court in Jerusalem on 17 March to hear the indictment against him.
The prime minister was charged in November with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three separate cases. He has strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a politically motivated “witch hunt”.
Opponents have called on Mr Netanyahu to step down. But even if convicted, he would not be required to do so until the appeals process was exhausted.
Mr Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009. In December, he comfortably won a primary election for leadership of his right-wing Likud party.
His main opponent in the general election is Benny Gantz, 60, a retired general who served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) before entering politics to lead the centrist Blue and White party.
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