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Netanyahu vows no Palestinian state if re-elected

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state if he is re-elected. Despite last-ditch efforts ahead of Tuesday's vote, neither party looks likely to win a majority.

Polling stations are set to open at 7 a.m. local time (05:00 UTC) on Tuesday for Israel's second snap general election in three years.

Speaking ahead of voting, Netanyahu said that giving up land to the Palestinians would risk leaving Israel open to attacks by Islamists.

"Whoever ignores that is burying his head in the sand. The left is doing that, burying its head in the sand time after time,'' he told the NRG news website.

When asked if that meant a Palestinian state would not be established if he was elected, Netanyahu answered, "Indeed."

Majority unlikely

Final opinion polls published late last week put the centrist Zionist Union ahead with 25-26 seats, with Netanyahu's Likud taking 20-22 in the 120-seat Knesset.

Experts say, however, that

neither party looks likely to win

a governing majority, possibly handing the decision to two centrist parties, Yesh Atid and Kulanu.

Analysts say this is where Netanyahu has the advantage, as it would be easier for his right-wing party to form a coalition with other conservative and hardline parties.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has said that if there is no clear winner he would meet with both candidates and discuss forming a national unity government.

If both sides can't agree on political and socio-economic issues, he said that they should at least work to reform the country's electoral system so that Israel doesn't "turn into Italy," and hold early elections every two years.

Both Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog have expressed their dislike over the plan.

Small swing, big impact

According to political scientist Avraham Diskin at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, with most voters expected to stay loyal to the left or right-wing parties, even a small swing in the electorate can make a big impact.

"It's enough for 3 to 5 percent to move from one bloc to another to get a dramatic change in the future government of Israel," he told news agency Reuters.

Final results are expected on March 25, with the new government likely to be sworn in on March 31.

ksb/cmk (AFP, AP)

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