Israelis are voting in their fourth national election in two years, the result of an unprecedented political deadlock that has seen the countrys longest-serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, face off against multiple rivals.
This time round, the prime minister is hoping that voters will credit him for a world-beating coronavirus vaccination campaign that has seen Israel reopen shops, bar and restaurants while simultaneously pushing down infection rates.
We are the world champions in handling the coronavirus, Netanyahu told crowds in the lead-up to the vote.
His nationalist rightwing Likud party remains ahead in the polls and is predicted to take 30-32 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset far more than any other party. However, the 71-year-old leader would still need to negotiate a coalition with smaller parties to form a 61-seat majority government.
Netanyahus preferred path to victory would be what is being called a full rightwing government, composed of extreme nationalist, hardline religious and far-right parties.
Allies from ultra-Orthodox Jewish factions would be relied on for support, such as Aryeh Deri, who said on Sunday that it was not a womans natural place to be a candidate in the party he leads, Shas.
The prime minister might also need backing from a group seen as even more extreme an alliance called Religious Zionism, which includes politicians who have expressed anti-gay views and want to expel disloyal Arabs from the state.
Israels most prominent left-leaning paper, Haaretz, has called this potential outcome a nightmare for anyone who isnt a nationalist extremist who believes in Jewish supremacy.
While most Israelis say they want Netanyahu out, he remains extremely popular compared with other candidates, despite facing multiple corruption charges, including bribery and fraud. He denies the charges.
In opposition, Yair Lapid, a former TV host and finance minister, hopes his Yesh Atid party can become a significant force. However, to do that, the self-proclaimed centrist will likely have to forge alliances with parties from across the political spectrum, from Arab parliamentarians to far-right nationalists, such as former Netanyahu ally Avigdor Lieberman.
Lapid has taken the role of head of the opposition from Benny Gantz, a former army chief who fought Netanyahu during the past three elections but who lost support after he made a power-sharing deal that ultimately collapsed.
More than 6.3 million people are eligible to vote at the polling stations, which will close at 10pm (8pm GMT) on Tuesday. For election day, the military has closed crossings with the occupied West Bank, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli rule but cannot vote.
The full results could take days to come in.
Matti Tuchfeld, a commentator for the Israel Hayom daily newspaper, said there are large uncertainties around this election as so many voters remain undecided and it is not clear how many people will turn up.
Israeli law dictates that parties need a minimum of 3.25% of all votes to even enter the Knesset, meaning that fractional changes in ballots could sway the results in significant ways.
Nobody knows what is going to happen this time, he wrote. The election results are definitely unpredictable. Only one thing is clear: we should not be surprised if we ultimately are very surprised.
Another inconclusive result in which no politician has a clear path to forming a coalition government could extend the political crisis, with the prospect of weeks of tense deal-making or even a fifth election.
What is happening?
Israelis are voting on Tuesday in the countrys fourth national election in less than two years.
Why would they do that?
Under the countrys political system, it is extremely difficult for a party to win an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. In the past, governments have been formed by parties grouping to make a coalition. However, recent attempts keep breaking apart.
How come?
It depends on who you ask, and there is certainly an element of bad luck about it. Still, the fissures that have kept Israel in limbo all relate to one man: Benjamin Netanyahu. The countrys longest-serving leader has become a sticking point due to his domestic divisiveness, being both adored and detested.
How did the previous three votes go?
King Bibi, as he is known, appeared to beat former army chief and opposition leader Benny Gantz in the first election in April 2019 but was blocked from forming a government by a disgruntled former ally, the far-right nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. The next election saw Netanyahu and Gantz in a virtual tie and both torpedoed each others run for power. A third vote did end in a government, a compromise in which Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to rotate the premiership. But that deal collapsed in December.
What about Netanyahus corruption case?
The 71-year-old leader has been formally charged with corruption accusations that he denies and is set to continue hearings next month. Political analysts in Israel have speculated that Netanyahu broke up the last government as he was due to hand over power to Gantz. They say he would rather risk another election in the hope that he can fight the charges from the powerful position of prime minister.
Has anything changed this time?
Many of the key players remain the same, although some have switched around. Gantz, who had campaigned on the promise to oust Netanyahu but then reneged and joined him, lost a lot of support. Yair Lapid, Gantzs former running mate, who appeals to secular, middle-class Israelis, is now head of the opposition.
Is the occupation an issue in this election?
Domestic politics in Israel has lurched far to the right, and the fate of millions of Palestinians under Israeli military control has all but disappeared from election campaigns.
When will we know the results?
Voting figures will trickle in from the early hours of Wednesday morning, but it could take days to count the ballots. If the outcome is muddied again, the real battle for power could take weeks. Current polls show a deadlock, so there is a possibility that the country could face a dreaded fifth election.