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Survival test for Netanyahu as Israel goes to poll today

Survival test for Netanyahu as Israel goes to poll today

Jerusalem: As Israel goes to an unprecedented repeat polls on Tuesday, merely 160 days after the last elections on April 9 that failed to yield a government, the central question surrounding the voters is if the country's longest serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will survive the toughest political challenge of his life.

Haunted by alleged charges of corruption on multiple counts, which he has denied, Netanyahu not only faces a fight for political survival but also personal liberty with a decisive victory probably the only thing that could keep him out of his legal woes.

Recent poll surveys have shown his ruling Likud party locked in a close contest with challenger Benny Gantz, a former Chief of Staff, leading the newly formed Blue and White party that had won 35 seats and tied with Netanyahu's party in the April polls.

The last poll results were seen as a major victory for the 69-year-old Netanyahu and right-wing formation led by him but hopes of an extended term for the Premier were dashed after an old associate, Avigdor Lieberman, turned hostile and refused to support the coalition with his five members on the question of everybody equally sharing the load of national service.

Lieberman, an ultra-nationalist leader backed primarily by a large chunk of immigrant voters from the former Soviet Union, demanded that a section of the ultra-orthodox population enjoying exemption from military service forego the privilege and serve the nation like everybody

else.

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