Israelis vote in second general election in five months

Netanyahu stymied by attorney general in push for large-scale Gaza operation reports say

Israel's election: The most important things to know

To garner support from the nationalist right, Netanyahu has promised to take steps toward annexing Israel's West Bank settlements.

"I voted Likud because I want a right-wing government and a strong Israel and I want Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) to be the prime minister", said Chaya Dvora Sharon, a voter.

Lieberman has demanded legislation to make military service mandatory for the ultra-Orthodox as for other Jewish Israelis - a demand he refused to drop after April polls, eventually blocking Netanyahu's efforts to form a coalition.

Opinion polls have forecast similar results this time around, potentially putting Lieberman once again in the role of kingmaker.

The two main contenders for the premiership have both positioned themselves as tough on security - the incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu, has followed a strategy of air strikes and covert action against threats from neighbouring countries, while his most prominent challenger, Benny Gantz, is a former military chief on whose watch many such operations were carried out. Anyone who thought that disgust with what the cases against Netanyahu have brought to light would prompt huge numbers of voters to cross the lines was mistaken...

Polling stations opened at 7am and close at 10 pm.

"It's going to be close".

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Almost all the major papers outline various coalition predictions if Netanyahu or his main rival Benny Gantz gets first crack, and all agree that the outcome will be determined in large part by voter turnout.

Netanyahu, who is battling for his political career, has been trying to mobilize his base by warning them of low supporter turnout.

Gantz favors staying there, while - as his supporters note - Bibi all but accepted a John Kerry-led peace plan that would have given it away. Interviewed by Army Radio, he urged Tel Aviv residents to "put down their espressos for an hour" and vote - a nod to the secular, middle-class constituency he hopes to mobilize against pro-Netanyahu religious-nationalists.

Mr Netanyahu faces an emergent centrist alliance studded with retired generals, who say they will end Israel's increasing divisions. Jordan's King Abdullah II said Tuesday the proposed annexation would be a "disaster" for the region. The central question on the agenda was ostensibly simple: Should Netanyahu be elected to another term after ten consecutive years in office?

Prior to the April vote, Trump moved to bolster Netanyahu's prospects, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

Netanyahu has repeatedly accused his opponents of conspiring with Arab parties to "steal" the election and voiced unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in Arab districts.

But initial turnout figures showed fears of election fatigue may not materialise.

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"I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month", Trump added.

Even if Blue and White bests Likud, it will have a hard time patching together a governing coalition due to divisions within Israel's center-left camp.

The Trump administration plans soon to release an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that may prove a dead letter: The Palestinians have rejected it in advance as biased.

In Gaza, Palestinians awaited the results of the vote. And I tell you and I tell every citizen today watching us on television: "the situation, both security-wise and economically, are emergency situations", he said. In July, Netanyahu secured a place in history as the longest-serving prime minister, surpassing Israel's founding father David Ben-Gurion.

"Victory that ends with the establishment of a right-wing-ultra-Orthodox coalition will give Netanyahu the authority - as far is he is concerned - to break law enforcement, the attorney general and the free press". Just as important is the number of lawmakers outside his own party who recommend him to the president.

Weeks of wrangling over who should be tasked with forming the next government could follow the election.

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