Israel Votes in Poll Seen as Referendum on Netanyahu

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Polls opened in Israel in a crucial election seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ruled out a Palestinian state as part of a last-ditch appeal to right-wing voters.

Israel Votes in Poll Seen as Referendum on Netanyahu

Around six million Israelis are eligible to take part in the vote on Tuesday to elect 120 deputies for the Knesset, or parliament, with polling stations opening at 7:00am (0500 GMT).

Shortly after the polls opened, Netanyahu and his family cast their ballots at a polling station in West Jerusalem.

The latest opinion poll shows Netanyahu's ruling Likud party behind the centre-left Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog., Al Jazeera reported.

On Monday night, Netanyahu ruled out a Palestinian state if re-elected, and vowed to keep building East Jerusalem settlements.

Having previously hinted that he would accept a Palestinian state, Netanyahu reversed course, citing risks in the region.

"Whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel," he told the Israeli news site NRG.

Asked if that meant a state would not be established if he remained prime minister, he said: "Indeed."

Earlier, Netanyahu also paid a last-minute visit to Har Homa, which the international community considers an illegal settlement, and declared that Jerusalem will remain undivided.

The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their capital.

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