But both he and his main opponent, the centrist Lapid, who is serving as the caretaker prime minister, face the daunting challenge of cobbling together a 61-seat parliamentary majority in the 120-member Knesset at a time of unprecedented division.
Ben Gvir is “king! He kills terrorists!” said Shmuel Nemirovski, 30, getting onto a motorbike outfitted with a Ben Gvir campaign sticker outside a polling site in Ma’alot Dafna, an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.
She voted for the left-wing Labor Party, part of the anti-Netanyahu coalition, and said she hoped a new government could bring changes that would be relevant for her generation: the introduction of public transportation on Saturdays, which has long been blocked by ultra-Orthodox parties; and laws that would further enshrine women’s rights, to abortion for example.
The polls, which have remained virtually unchanged over the past four months, indicate that the pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu blocs are neck and neck. Turnout — which among the Jewish population is expected to remain around 70 percent, similar to previous rounds — may tip the balance.
“People like Ben Gvir were once disqualified from politics, and suddenly now, it’s like, sababa, cool. But they could have so much power, and I don’t want them to use that power against me, to take the whole country backward.”
The small parties will be just as critical as the larger ones. Any of the three politically unaffiliated Arab parties that pass the four-seat threshold required to enter the Knesset could serve as kingmakers. The same goes for the ultra-Orthodox parties which, unlike in past elections, have not pledged to support Netanyahu. After a year out of the government, the parties are under pressure to find support for their underfunded schools and institutions.
Rosenberg grew up in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, where he said that his school suffered from a lack of funding. He now lives in Brooklyn, but extended his trip to Israel for the Jewish holidays, so he could vote. His rabbi here instructed him to vote for the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism.
“My rabbi is watching that Israel is going in a certain way,” he said — namely, toward a more secular lifestyle where establishments and public services are open on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath. “If you don’t pay attention, you will lose your specificities.”
Israeli security forces are on high alert, with several security officers stationed at every polling station across the country. The army has also enforced a full closure of the West Bank, warning of a high risk of a terrorist attack.
He traveled Tuesday to a polling station in Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, from his home in Shuafat refugee camp — where more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees, many descendants of those who fled their homes during the 1948 war are mostly neglected by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
Jabarin, who obtained Israeli citizenship only in 2014, decided on his vote at the last moment. He voted Ra’am, the Arab Islamist party — the first-ever Arab party to be included in a ruling coalition — “because it’s a party based in reality, that will support services for Palestinian society.”
This content was originally published here.