Israel chooses new parliament again

Israeli citizens are going to the polls in the fifth parliamentary election in just three and a half years, with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hoping to return as prime minister.

According to the latest polls, his party, the right-wing conservative Likud, could once again become the ruling party.

It remains unclear however, whether his right-wing religious group can secure a majority of seats overall.

On Twitter on Monday, the veteran politician, nicknamed "Bibi," warned of a downward trend in the latest polls and urged his supporters to turn out and vote. Victory was within reach, he said.

Forty different parties are contesting the 25th election to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, but only a third are expected to clear the 3.25 per cent hurdle.

As polling stations close, initial forecasts based on exit polls will be published around 9pm on Tuesday. The final result is not expected before Thursday, however.

Around 18,000 police officers will be deployed on election day to ensure the security of the 6.8 million eligible voters nationwide.

According to the last pre-election polls on Friday, the pro-Bibi bloc could get 60 out of 120 seats.

This would again create a stalemate with the opposing camp of current Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

His Future Party, which is in the political centre, could become second strongest.

The anti-Bibi camp consists of parties from the right to the left of the spectrum and wants to prevent the return of Netanyahu as head of government.

Lapid wrote on Twitter on Monday that all Israelis deserve "a government of fair and hardworking people who work hard for them" and spoke out against internal divisions.

The 58-year-old Lapid is also in favour of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The political landscape in Israel is highly fragmented and interest-driven.

Even parties from similar camps are often unable to form alliances.

Apart from differences over content, this is also due to personal disputes. For example, Netanyahu's relationship with other main figures in the right-wing camp is considered extremely poor.

Moreover, Netanyahu is currently on trial on corruption charges.

Much like after last year's election, it could take weeks or months before a government is formed. As long as no new government is installed, Lapid will remain in office on a transitional basis.

Netanyahu's return depends on whether he finds allies. The 73-year-old has already failed several times in his attempts to forge a coalition.

This time, the far-right alliance of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir is seen as a possible grouping. Their Religious Zionist Party has the potential to be the third most popular party in the country.

The turnout among Israel's Arab population is also seen as crucial. The Arab minority makes up about 20 per cent of Israel's approximately 9.4 million citizens.

If one of the smaller parties in the Lapid camp fails to clear the 3.25 per cent hurdle to enter the Knesset, this could pave the way for an ultra-right government led by Netanyahu.

The Mediterranean country of 9 million people has been in an almost permanent crisis that has lasted years.

Past elections have often led to unclear majorities.

The current eight-party coalition led by former prime minister Naftali Bennett fell apart in June after losing its majority after only 12 months. Subsequently, Foreign Minister Lapid took over as head of government.