Israeli election key to Middle East future

(AGI) Rome, March 17 - The eyes of the Middle East and theworld are focused on Israel, where parliamentary elections willdetermine the future of the region. A defeat of the Likud partyand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been in powerfor nine years, could pave the way to restart peace talks withthe Palestinians. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. localtime, with almost six million voters choosing 120 members ofparliament. Results are expected in the early hours ofWednesday. They will be officially announced on March 25 byPresident Reuven Rivlin, although consultations for

(AGI) Rome, March 17 - The eyes of the Middle East and theworld are focused on Israel, where parliamentary elections willdetermine the future of the region. A defeat of the Likud partyand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been in powerfor nine years, could pave the way to restart peace talks withthe Palestinians. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. localtime, with almost six million voters choosing 120 members ofparliament. Results are expected in the early hours ofWednesday. They will be officially announced on March 25 byPresident Reuven Rivlin, although consultations for theformation of the government will start earlier. The mostserious opposition to the Likud party is the centre-leftZionist Union led by Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog. It hastopped the polls since February with a predicted 24-26 seatsagainst Likud's 20-22. Mr Herzog said on Tuesday that hewas a man of change and urged voters not to waste their votesby choosing other parties, particularly the centrists. Ms Livni said she would forfeit a power-sharing deal with Mr Herzog ifnecessary. Voter turnout was 45.4 percent at 4 a.m., thehighest percentage since the 1999 elections. Arab-Israelivoters seem to have responded in force to calls to go to thepolls. The four Arab parties joined forces for the first time,forming the Joint List, which is expected to get 13 seats. Thatwould make it the third largest party in the country. PrimeMinister Benjamin Netanyahu, feeling threatened by the List, onTuesday morning posted a message on Facebook: "The right-winggovernment is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to thepolls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.". .