Israeli's vote on Netanyahu again, after vaccination success

Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. [Courtesy]

Israelis began voting on Tuesday on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political survival in a fourth election in two years, with the veteran leader hoping his role in a rapid COVID-19 vaccine campaign will win him another term.

On the campaign trail, Netanyahu has highlighted his role in securing millions of vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc and turning Israel into what he dubbed a “vaccination nation”.

About half of Israelis have been inoculated at a pace that drew international praise for Netanyahu as well as calls for Israel to do more to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza receive vaccines.

Israel’s swift vaccine roll-out allowed it to reopen much of its economy before the election. Posting a video on Twitter of his visit to a Jerusalem hospital on Monday, Netanyahu wrote: “Today we are the first in the world to return to life and smile again.”

Netanyahu’s current government, a power-sharing alliance with centrist Defence Minister Benny Gantz, collapsed in December, some seven months after it was established.

Opinion polls show the race is too close to call.

On trial on corruption charges he denies, Netanyahu, 71, is Israel’s longest-serving head of government. Since 2009, he has led the politically polarised nation where supporters hail him as “King Bibi” and opponents call him “crime minister”.

Opinion polls indicated an uptick for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the campaign’s final days, giving a prospective coalition of conservative and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties around 60 seats in the 120-member parliament.