Israeli Election Ends In Dramatic Deadlock

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's parliamentary election has ended in a stunning deadlock between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line bloc and center-left rivals, forcing the badly weakened Israeli leader to scramble to cobble together a coalition of parties from both camps, despite dramatically different views on Mideast peacemaking and other polarizing issues.

Israeli media says that with 99.8 percent of votes counted on Wednesday morning, each bloc has 60 of parliament's 120 seats. Commentators said Netanyahu, who called early elections expecting easy victory, would be tapped to form the next government because the rival camp drew 12 of its 60 seats from Arab parties who've never joined a coalition.

A startlingly strong showing by a political newcomer, the centrist Yesh Atid party, turned pre-election forecasts on their heads and dealt Netanyahu his surprise setback.


JERUSALEM (AP) -- Election officials in Israel are reporting relatively high turnout today, compared with previous years, as voters decide whether to return Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to office.

Sunny, spring-like weather is helping bring out voters. And a heavy turnout could favor Netanyahu's opponents, whose voters generally have a lower participation rate than the highly-motivated hard-liners.

Netanyahu is widely seen, even by some opponents, as the man best suited to lead Israel at a turbulent time. He has maintained a lead in the polls with a message that the country needs a tough-minded and experienced leader to face down dangers such as Iran's nuclear program and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Egypt and other Arab countries.

His re-election to a third term would be expected to put Israel on a path to continued deadlock in peace efforts with the Palestinians, and further run-ins with the international community -- including Israel's key ally, the United States.