Netanyahu bids for comeback in tight Israeli election

STORY: Israelis began voting for the fifth time in less than four years on Tuesday (November 1) -

A race in which former premier Benjamin Netanyahu is bidding for a comeback.

Yet the ballot is likely to turn on a far-right party that has risen from the fringe to become a potential coalition kingmaker.

After years of deadlock, voter exasperation may hurt turnout.

But surging support for the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism bloc and firebrand co-leader Itamar Ben-Gvir has galvanized the campaign.

Israel's longest-serving premier, Netanyahu is on trial on corruption charges, which he denies, but his rightist Likud party is still expected to finish as the largest in parliament.

However as residents queued up to cast their vote on Tuesday, the final opinion polls from last week showed him still short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Opening the prospect of weeks of coalition wrangling and possibly new elections - again.

"It is the fifth election that we have in the last year and a half or two years and unfortunately again it is going to be exactly the same results, 60-60 maybe 61-59 to one of the blocks but that is not a stable, that is not going to be a stable government.

“I do believe in trying to create a coalition that is more representative in the entire country and not specific stream or thought and I think the current coalition is pretty good in that.

Security and surging prices have topped the list of voter concerns.

The campaign was triggered by defections from the unlikely ruling coalition of right-wing, centrist and Arab parties formed after the last election.

The campaign opened weeks after a brief conflict with the militant Islamic Jihad group in Gaza in August.

It's also unrolled against a backdrop of months of violence in the occupied West Bank, with near-daily raids and clashes.