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Israelis Vote in Election That Could Decide Future of West Bank

  • VOA News

Israelis are voting in parliamentary elections seen as a referendum on acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank.

Mr. Olmert's Kadima Party is expected to win the vote, but not an absolute majority. He says that if his party leads Israel's next coalition government, he plans to dismantle small Jewish settlements and merge large blocs into Israel. He says he will not leave any settlements outside Israel's controversial West Bank separation barrier.

Today's (Tuesday's) vote is being held under extremely tight security. Voter turnout is lower than in previous elections, with only 47 percent of eligible voters casting ballots so far.

As voting got underway, an explosion killed two Israeli Bedouin Arabs near the Gaza border. The Islamic Jihad militant group says it fired rockets at the area to disrupt the Israeli election.

Initial exit polls are expected shortly after voting closes at ten pm local time (20 Hours UTC).

Opinion surveys indicate the centrist Kadima is likely to win between 33 and 35 seats in the 120-member parliament, followed by the Labor party's 17 to 21 seats. The Likud party is projected to win between 13 to 15 seats.
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