Israel votes in cliffhanger election

EPA:NBC(image: EPA/NBC News)

Polls close at 10pm (4pm ET) on Tuesday in Israel’s general election, with uncertainty over the result and final polls showing neither major political side expected to win more than a quarter of the votes and thus have no clear mandate without assembling a coalition.

Center-left challenger Isaac Herzog – son of former President Chaim Herzog – who leads the Labor Party and the Zionist Union alliance, which had a small lead in the final opinion polls, promised he would bring change and be a “Prime Minister for everyone.” But Al Jazeera says the election could “weaken, but not oust [Benjamin] Netanyahu.”

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post wonders if there is a change of leadership, “will US Republicans still be ‘pro-Israel’?”

Given the rapturous reception he got from GOP members when he came at John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress, Netanyahu could become the 2016 Republican nominee for president in a landslide, if it were possible….

But tomorrow, Republicans could learn that by the standard they’ve been using, most Israelis are insufficiently pro-Israel. And then what? What if a Labor-led government moves toward a two-state solution, or a curtailing of Jewish settlement in the West Bank? And what if those changes are enthusiastically supported by President Obama and Hillary Clinton?

In a late bid to shore up support with his base, Netanyahu said he will not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he is re-elected. But observers believe it will be domestic and economic questions that are likely to sway voters.

Reuters writes:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s march towards becoming the longest-serving leader of Israel could be halted on Tuesday in an election that has exposed public fatigue with his stress on national security rather than socio-economic problems.

Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni – a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party – said on Monday that she would be willing to give up rotation of the premiership with Herzog, an agreement the two made months ago when forming the center-left group. Some analysts think the votes of as-yet undecided women could be key.

Ben Sales writes at The Times of Israel that the election is set to see a higher turnout than in recent years, which could benefit Herzog and the Zionist Union.

Since 2001, voter turnout in Israel has hovered around 65 percent, and the right wing or its offshoots has won every election. But this year, according to Israeli Channel 2, around 80 percent of Israel’s nearly 6 million voters plan to cast ballots.

That rise in turnout could be good news for the left. The last two times Labor has won the election, in 1992 and 1999, voter turnout was about 77 and 78 percent, respectively.

* Here are some possible outcome scenarios after the vote.

* Here is a live-blog from Haaretz.

* Here is a live-blog from The Jerusalem Post.

(Initial exit polls will be published at 4pm ET, and first actual results an hour later)

Finally, here’s John Oliver from earlier this month:

(HBO/Berto Majden)

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