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. local time, with almostsix million voters choosing 120 members of parliament. Resultsare expected in the early hours of Wednesday. They will beofficially announced on March 25 by President 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. local time, with almostsix million voters choosing 120 members of parliament. Resultsare expected in the early hours of Wednesday. They will beofficially announced on March 25 by President Reuven Rivlin,although consultations for the formation of the government willstart earlier. The most serious opposition to the Likudparty is the centre-left Zionist Union led by Tzipi Livni andIsaac Herzog. It has topped the polls since February with apredicted 24-26 seats against Likud's 20-22. Mr Herzog said on Tuesday that he was a man of change andurged voters not to waste their votes by choosing otherparties, particularly the centrists. Ms Livni said she wouldforfeit a power-sharing deal with Mr Herzog if necessary. Voter turnout was 45.4 percent at 4 a.m., the highestpercentage since the 1999 elections. Arab-Israeli voters seemto have responded in force to calls to go to the polls. Thefour Arab parties joined forces for the first time, forming theJoint List, which is expected to get 13 seats. That would makeit the third largest party in the country. Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu, feeling threatened by the List, on Tuesdaymorning 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". .