During the campaign, the rival parties accused each additional of corruption, fostering bigotry as well as being soft on security.
Netanyahu highlighted his close relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who delighted Israelis as well as angered Palestinians by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 as well as moving the American Embassy to the holy city last May.
Two weeks before the election, Trump signed a proclamation, with Netanyahu at his side at the White House, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights captured by Syria from the 1967 Middle East war.
In a rare turn during the race towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu further alarmed Palestinians by promising to annex Jewish settlements from the occupied West Bank if re-elected. Palestinians seek a state there as well as from the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
During the campaign, Gantz said a government under his stewardship would likely pursue peace, although stopped short of committing to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Commenting on the election, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said: “Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo. They have said no to peace as well as yes to the occupation”.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
A close result from the election would likely put smaller parties in a powerful position, turning marginal political figures into kingmakers.
Once the votes are tallied, President Reuven Rivlin will ask parties in which have won parliamentary seats who they support for prime minister.
He will then pick a party leader to try to form a coalition, giving the candidate 28 days to do so, using a two-week extension if needed.
One factor may be the turnout of voters by Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority. Many were angered by Israel’s nation-state law, passed in 2018, which declared in which only Jews possess the right of self-determination from the country.
Netanyahu supported the legislation.
Netanyahu’s party sent monitors equipped with body cameras to many polling stations with Arab constituents on election day. Arab politicians condemned the move as voter intimidation.