The key figures to watch are in incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking to secure his place as Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, and former military chief Benny Gantz, his main opposition. A final poll published on Friday showed the right-wing Netanyahu and his Likud party falling slightly behind centrist Gantz and his Blue and White alliance. But an unexpected candidate is also worth keeping an eye on as a possible kingmaker: far-right candidate Moshe Feiglin and his new Zehut party.
What we know so far:
- Both Netanyahu and his main rival Gantz claimed victory despite exit poll results showing the results too close to call
- Israel typically runs on a coalition government, with no party ever winning an outright majority in the 120-seat Parliament, the Knesset
- There have been reports of low turnout, with 52 percent cited in some reports
- Netanyahu’s party has come under criticism for sending poll monitors equipped with body cameras to a number of polling stations with Arab constituents, with Arab politicians condemned the move as voter intimidation
- Exit polls are expected around 10pm local time (8pm BST)
Follow below for live updates. All times BST (Israel is two hours ahead; ie 1pm BST = 3pm Israel).
Full list of Israeli election candidates
Israel Elections LIVE: The 2019 elections are a two horse race – Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz
1am update: Netanyahu and Gantz address supporters – Netanyahu hails “great victory” whlst Gantz claims his party are “the winners”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has arrived the Likud party election headquarters in Tel Aviv to crowds chanting “Bibi” and fireworks on stage.
He declared: “This is a night of great vicory”, hailing the party’s “amazing success.”
The leader added: “I’m very touched that, for the fifth time, the people of Israel have believed in me.”
Meanwhile, his rival Benny Gantz spoke to a crowd of supporters at the Blue and White party’s election night headquarters, calling it a “historic” night.
He said: “In elections there are losers and winners, and we are the winners.”
12pm update: Exit polls indicate Netanyahu win
Two main TV channel shows in Israel have said Netanyahu has won the election with 35 seats to Gantz’ 34 seats.
11pm update: When will the results be announced?
The final results are expected by Friday, but partial results are published by the Knesset as the vote-counting proceeds, so a clearer picture will begin to emerge before the final tally.
Israel has a parliamentary system, which means voters choose from party lists of candidates to serve in the 120-seat Knesset.
No party has won a majority since Israel’s first election, in 1949.
To enter parliament, a party must pass a threshold of at least 3.25 percent of the national vote, equivalent to 4 Knesset seats.
With 40 parties running, of which at least 12 have a real chance of passing the threshold, the calculations take time.
10pm update: Full exit polls
Three Israeli television networks carried out separate exit polls:
- Public broadcaster Kan projected that Blue and White would win 37 seats and Likud 36. It said the right-wing bloc was expected to control 64 seats in parliament and the centre-left bloc 56
- Channel 13 predicted both parties with end up with 36 seats, but that right-wing parties would control 66 seats to the centre-left’s 54
- Channel 12 News projected that Blue and White would win 37 seats and Likud 33 seats. But it had the centre-left and right-wing blocs both controlling 60 seats
9.20pm update: Counting begins as exit polls too close to call
Official counting will now begin after the exit polls showed the results were neck-and-neck.
Both key figures have claimed victory, but we won’t know who the President selects to form a government for a few days yet.
We will bring you the official results here as they trickle in.
Israel election: Supporters of Benny Gantz celebrate
8.45pm update: Netanyahu comment
Netanyahu said in a statement: “The rightist bloc led by Likud has won a clear victory. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partner this very night.”
8.40pm update: What now?
Read our analysis here
8.30pm update: Gantz and Netanyahu both claim victory
Both Netanyahu and his main rival Gantz claimed victory after the polls showed that Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party and Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud had won about the same number of seats in the 120-member parliament.
But with neither party capturing a ruling majority in the Knesset, the polls, on the country’s main TV channels, put Netanyahu in a stronger position to form a government with the help of right-wing factions.
8.24pm update: Gantz claims victory amid exit poll confusion
Benny Gantz has claimed victory over Benjamin Netanyahu after two out of three TV exit polls gave his centrist party the biggest showing in parliamentary seats.
Gantz’s Blue and White party said in a statement: “We won! The Israeli public has had its say!”
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s conservative Likud.
However, two exit polls predicted a parliamentary majority for a Netanyahu-led bloc of rightist parties.
The third exit poll predicted this bloc would be tied with centre-left parties that Gantz would have to enlist to form a coalition government.
8.20pm update: Mixed exit polls
The Kan exit poll showed Gantz leads by one seat but that the Netanyahu would still dominate, while Channel 13 said the parties were tied and Channel 12 said Mr Gatnz led by four seats.
8.15pm update: A tight race and a complicated picture
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing right-wing Likud Party appeared almost neck and neck with his main centrist rival for seats in Parliament on election day, as exit polls paint a varied picture.
The preliminary polls, while all painting a slightly different picture, appear to give Netanyahu, 69, the chance to secure his place in history as Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister with another term.
8.10pm update: Early exit polls show results remain neck-and-neck
Israeli public TV KAN reported Netanyahu’s Likud on course to win 36 seats, vs 37 for Gantz’s Blue and White.
8.07pm update: Gantz party confident
A spokesman for Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party said they are preparing to claim victory.
8.03pm update: Netanyahu leading exit polls
Israeli public TV KAN predicts Netanyahu on course to win, Reuters reported.
8pm update: Polls close
Exit polls expected imminently
7.20pm update: Polls to close in less than an hour
As soon as polls close, we’ll have the exit results, which we’ll publish here.
But it’s worth keeping in mind that these exit polls can be inaccurate.
Final results can take a few days, as ballot boxes are checked and votes come in from Israelis overseas, but the results should be obvious long before.
6.45pm update: Netanyahu in last-ditch attempt to prompt voters to the polls
Just two hours before polls are due to close, Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that “data reaching us now” showed Blue and White with a four-seat advantage over Likud in the 120-member parliament.
“Many Likud supporters haven’t voted yet. The hour is late but not too late,” Netanyahu wrote. “I ask all of you to mobilise and bring your families and friends to the ballot box.”
Voting ends at 10pm (8pm BST). TV stations will immediately publish exit polls giving a preliminary indication of the number of Knesset seats parties have won and which leader stands the best chance of piecing together a government.
6.20pm update: URWP says New Right wants to ‘destroy religious Zionism’
Rafi Peretz, the head of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, lashes out at his rivals in the New Right, according to the Times of Israel.
He said: “We woke up this morning with a good feeling in the field, a lot of excitement. Since then the New Right has been releasing ‘spin’ about us and is fighting us and wants to destroy religious Zionism.”
He urged voters to support his party, rather than Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right.
5.40pm update: Voter turnout at 52 percent
At 6pm local time (4pm BST), turnout was reported at 52 percent, still well behind the 2015 election.
Mosques throughout the Arab towns are urging Arab Israelis to go vote amid expectations of historically low turnout in the community.
Israel election: A man casts his vote near Tel Aviv
5pm update: “King Bibi” or “Bibi fatigue”?
The biggest challenge to Netanyahu is to convince voters who have tired of the long-standing Prime Minister and lost trust due to corruption allegations that he is a solid bet.
Netanyahu, in power consecutively since 2009 after a first term from 1996 to 1999, is fighting for his political survival.
He faces possible indictment in three corruption cases in which the right-wing leader has denied any wrongdoing.
Final opinion polls on Friday showed Netanyahu, who heads the Likud party, falling behind his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz of the Blue and White faction, but with an easier path to form a government.
4.30pm update: New technology implemented to assist the visually impaired
Voters in Israel’s Election who are blind and visually impaired cast their ballots unassisted on Tuesday thanks to a local invention that “read” the options out loud for them.
The smart-camera device, by Israeli hi-tech firm OrCam, is tacked onto the stem of spectacles and dictates into the wearer’s ear what is written before him or her. It can also scan barcodes and be programmed to recognise faces.
As part of a pilot roll-out, the company distributed the device at 12 polling stations in Israel, assisting 20,000 voters – a constituency large enough to account for around half of one of the 120 seats in parliament being contested.
4pm update: Netanyahu calls for emergency meeting amid low turnout
Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that he would call an emergency meeting with his campaign officials to discuss what he described as lower voter turnout in Likud strongholds compared with a strong voting percentage in “left-wing bastions”.
Official figures posted by the Israeli Central Elections Committee put overall turnout, some eight hours before polls close, at less than a percentage point lower than at the same time during the previous national ballot in 2015.
3.30pm update: ‘Get out of the water and vote for me’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised beach-goers in Tel Aviv as he turned up urging them to head to the polls amid reports of low voter turnout.
Wearing a sport jacket over an open-neck shirt and surrounded by bodyguards in suits and ties, Netanyahu went to Poleg beach, north of Tel Aviv, and posted a video of his appeal on his Twitter page.
He said: “If you want to continue with the Likud and me, then you have to go vote. Go to the beach later.”
Election day is an official holiday in Israel, with schools and offices closed.
Israel election: Polls only close at 10pm so there was plenty of time to hit the beach
3pm: Kate Whitfield taking over live reporting from Georgina Laud
1.35pm update: Mr Smotrich confirms receiving extra security after Knesset receives threats against him
MK Bezalel Smotrich, who is running on the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties slate, confirms that he was told by the Knesset’s security chief that threatening letters targeting him had been received.
This has triggered extra security for him and his family. A police car arrived at Smotrich’s home this morning and accompanied him to his polling station.
11.44am update: Complaint filed by Israel’s Central Elections Committee chairman Judge Hanan Melcer after Likud provided right-wing activists with 1,200 body cameras
Israel’s Central Elections Committee chairman Judge Hanan Melcer has filed a complaint to the Israel Police after Likud provides right-wing activists with 1,200 body cameras to monitor Arab polling sites.
A senior police official told Haaretz there is no suspicion that a criminal offense was committed, adding that the activists caught with body cameras were outside polling stations not inside them.
Police are currently waiting for the Central Elections Committee’s decision to determine whether the installment of the camera is an obstruction of the voting process.
11.23am update: Prime Minister Netanyahu has cast his vote
Photos show a smiling Mr Netanyahu placing his voting card inside a ballot box in Jerusalem with his wife, Sara.
10.35am update: Police find cameras hidden at polling stations
Israel Police have found dozens of cameras, some of them hidden, installed by activists in polling stations in Arab communities, in cities which include Nazareth, Reineh and Tamra.
A police source told Haaretz that filming at the entrance to polling stations does not constitute a felony unless cameras are installed behind the privacy divider.
The source added that to their knowledge, the cameras were not hidden behind the divider. It is not known which party has installed the cameras.
Israel Election LIVE: Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara cast their votes
9.48am update: Voter turnout currently reported at 12.9 percent
Polling sites are reporting a 12.9percent as of 10am local time (8am BST).
In 2015 turnout was at 13.7 percent and 2013 turnout was 11.4 percent at the same time.
The overall turnout in 2015 was 71.8 percent.
9.06am update: Prime Minister Netanyahu invites voters to chat through social media
Mr Netanyahu has uploaded a video calling on voters to chat with him personally on Facebook messenger by clicking on a link.
He said: “This morning I want to talk to you personally through messenger. All you have to do is click the link. I am waiting.”
Voters have also reported receiving SMS messages inviting them to personally chat through messages with the prime minister.
Israel elections 2019 LIVE: Prime Minister Natanyahu has addressed voters on social media
8.25am update: Kahol Lavan candidate Benny Gantz casts his vote
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz has now cast his vote in the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin, saying “We’re going to change the state of Israel.”
After submitting his vote Mr Gantz’s party issued a statement saying he will now travel to Kfar Achim to visit his parents’ gravesite.
8.12am update: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues message directed to voters on social media
As broadcast and traditional media outlets are off-limits for campaigning on election day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The media-savvy right-wing leader posted a link on Twitter and Facebook with a video message in Hebrew saying: “Good morning.
“This morning I am asking to speak with you, personally, through messenger. All it takes is one click on the link. I’m waiting.”
Israel elections LIVE: Opposition leader Benny Gantz arrives to cast his vote
6.34am update: Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon casts his vote
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has now cast his vote in Haifa and Shas party chairman Arye Dery has also voted in Jerusalem.
Mr Kahlon said: “If Kulanu gets another seat it will change the lives of millions of citizens, of the elderly, of the disabled, of the middle class, of young couples waiting for housing,”
5.00am update: Polls Open
More than 10,000 polling stations have now opened across Israel.
There are 6.3 million eligible voters who will today cast their vote as hundreds of thousands of Israelis are expected to enjoy the day off.