Israeli politicians are making their final appeals to voters, a day before the country decides whether to give embattled PM Benjamin Netanyahu another term in office.
Mr Netanyahu made a last-minute campaign stop in east Jerusalem looking to shore up support from his hard-line base ahead of Tuesday’s parliamentary election. His chief rival, Isaac Herzog of the centrist Zionist Union, confidently predicted an “upheaval” was imminent.
The election, called by Mr Netanyahu in December two years ahead of schedule, is widely seen as a referendum on the Israeli leader, who has governed the country for the past six years. The latest opinion polls have shown Netanyahu’s Likud Party trailing Herzog’s Zionist Union, with momentum shifting away from Mr Netanyahu.
While Mr Netanyahu could still end up in the best position to cobble together a ruling coalition, the slipping support has rattled Likud – which began the campaign all but assured that it would stay in office.
In recent days it has been on a get-out-the-vote blitz, with Mr Netanyahu stepping up his nationalist rhetoric, saying a dovish government would spell disaster for the country and complaining of an international conspiracy to oust him.
Mr Netanyahu, who rarely speaks to the media, has given a series of interviews to Israeli media in recent days and on Sunday night, he addressed an outdoor rally before tens of thousands of hard-line supporters in Tel Aviv.
On his final day of campaigning, Mr Netanyahu visited Har Homa, a Jewish development in east Jerusalem that is viewed as an illegal settlement by the Palestinians and the international community. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as their capital.
“We will preserve Jerusalem’s unity in all its parts. We will continue to build and fortify Jerusalem so that its division won’t be possible and it will stay united forever,” he said. “Likud’s victory is the only thing that can ensure the continuation of a national leadership and will prevent the establishment of a left-wing government.”
Mr Herzog has been surging in the polls on a campaign that promises to repair ties with the Palestinians and the international community and also bring relief to the country’s struggling middle class.
Visiting his party headquarters, an upbeat Mr Herzog talked about a “crucial” vote for the country and warned against splitting the anti-Netanyahu vote among the various centrist parties, including charismatic leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party.