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By Stephen Sorace | Fox News

Exit polls in Israel’s unprecedented third general election in less than a year indicated Monday that incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds an edge over his main challenger, retired military chief Benny Gantz, but not enough to clinch a parliamentary majority — despite Netanyahu’s upcoming trial on corruption charges.

Voting ended at 10 p.m. local time and Netanyahu’s nationalist Likud party is predicted to win between 36 and 37 Knesset seats out of 120, while Gantz’ centrist Blue and White party is predicted to win between 32 and 33 seats, according to three exit polls.

Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz was able to form a majority coalition following the previous two elections, leaving Israel in a state of political paralysis.

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As fears over the coronavirus deepen, those who went to the polls spoke to Fox News in Tel Aviv after casting their ballots. Many believed it was time to get a working government, no matter who was elected.

“We should finally have a government,” said Shaina Kaplan of Jerusalem. “This is the third time. Without a government, the country can’t work right.”

Netanyahu and his wife Sara cast their ballots during the Israeli legislative elections at a polling station in Jerusalem on Monday. (Atef Safadi/Pool Photo via AP)

Kaplan said she thinks Netanyahu “is the greatest prime minister” and doesn’t think anyone else on the ballot can do a better job than he. However, her biggest desire is to get the government working amid continued security threats against the country.

“When bombs are going over we should have a strong government to make the right decisions,” Kaplan said. “It makes me want to go and vote, and tell people to go and vote, so we can have a normal government working.”

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Allan Niewodowski, a critic of Netanyahu, said the prime minister has “manipulated the security situation” in Israel, and called for “new” and “honest” leadership.

“Bibi said a long time ago he was going to destroy Hamas, well he’s had 10 years to do that and he’s done nothing in those 10 years,” Niewodowski said. He also said Israel needs to enter into diplomacy with other nations for the good of both Israel and the Middle East.

Gantz and his wife Revital vote in Rosh Haayin, Israel, on Monday in the country’s third general election in less than a year. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

However, Niewodowski said that Gantz’s campaign approach may not have been “aggressive enough” in reaching Netanyahu’s “demagogic” level by focusing too much on social issues.

“In trying to deflect the issues to more social, health, issues of that sort, I don’t think [Gantz] has succeeded in capturing the excitement of the people on the street,” he said.

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Netanyahu has acted as a caretaker prime minister for more than a year through the two inconclusive votes.

Looking to serve his fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall, Netanyahu is desperate to cobble together a coalition that has the required 61 Knesset seats to form a government before his corruption trial begins March 17.

Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times. Gantz has tried to depict Netanyahu as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and an honest alternative.

Official election results are expected overnight.

Fox News’ Trey Yingst and Dana Karni, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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