Polls open as Israel prepares to elect new government


Polling booths have opened across Israel as voters prepare to elect the country’s next government.

Voters will cast their ballot between 7am and 10pm in more than 10,300 polling stations.

The election of the 20th Knesset will decide whether current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead the country after six years in power.

Opinion polls suggest the centre-left Zionist Union, led by Labour’s Isaac Herzog, is marginally ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The two have been neck-and-neck for weeks and the election is widely regarded as too close to call.

Politicians will stand for 26 parties across the political spectrum. There are 1,280 individual candidates.

A party must win 3.25 per cent of the vote to ensure it will get a seat in the Knesset.

The Jewish Home, a right-wing Zionist party led by Naftali Bennett, is currently projected to gain 12 seats, while the Joint Arab List, a coalition of four Arab-majority parties, is predicted to win 13 seats, as is Yesh Atid, the centrist party led by former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

An exclusive poll for the JC last week revealed that two thirds of British Jews who have a view on the Israeli election would vote for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Asked who they would support if they could vote in today’s ballot, 67 per cent of those with an opinion said they would choose Mr Netanyahu.

Just 22 per cent said they would vote for the Zionist Union.

More than 5.8 million Israelis are eligible to vote. According to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 80 per cent are Jewish, 15 per cent are Arab Muslims, Druze or Christians, and five per cent are defined as others.

Israeli civil servants, including soldiers, and employees of the Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization, and Jewish National Fund who are abroad were allowed to vote in 98 cities around the world on March 5.

Results are expected to be announced tonight, but it could take until the end of the week for the new government to be formed.

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