Key candidates in Israel's general election

2015-03-17 14:20
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote during Israel's parliamentary elections in Jerusalem. (Sebastian Scheiner, AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote during Israel's parliamentary elections in Jerusalem. (Sebastian Scheiner, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Israel holds its second general election in just over two years on Tuesday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved parliament following the breakdown of his coalition government.

Here are brief profiles of the leaders of the main political parties.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Known as "Bibi", Netanyahu heads the rightwing Likud party and is seeking a third consecutive term, his fourth overall.

Polls show the centre-left Zionist Union slightly ahead of Likud, but analysts say Netanyahu, aged 65, is best placed to form a parliamentary majority with support from ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties.

The son of a Zionist historian, Netanyahu presents himself as the guardian of Israeli security against Iran and radical Islam.

Educated in the United States, he served in Israel's Special Forces and is considered close to the American school of neo-conservative politics.

Isaac Herzog

The head of the opposition Labour Party, Herzog has joined forces with the centrist Hatnuah to form the Zionist Union.

A 54-year-old lawyer and son of Israel's sixth president, Herzog has been a member of parliament since 2003 and held several cabinet posts. A social rights activist, he has repeatedly called for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Despite his political pedigree, critics accuse Herzog of lacking charisma.

Tzipi Livni

A former justice minister and chief peace negotiator, Livni was sacked by Netanyahu in December for "acting against the government from within" after opposing a controversial bill aimed at enshrining Israel's status as the Jewish state in law.

Livni, a 56-year-old lawyer, is a former undercover agent for the Mossad spy agency and a one-time foreign minister who cut her political teeth with Likud.

Often described as Israel's most powerful woman and compared with former Prime Minister Golda Meir, Livni has defied her staunch nationalist background and become convinced that the only way to preserve Israel as a Jewish state is to relinquish at least some of the land occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Naftali Bennett

The head of the far-right Jewish Home party, Bennett, aged 42, is a champion of the settler movement and a key challenger of Netanyahu to head Israel's rightwing.

A slick communicator, he is a savvy user of social media who is fluent in Hebrew, English and French. He held the economy portfolio in the outgoing government.

He openly opposes a Palestinian state and pushes his own "peace plan" which would see Israel annexing 60% of the West Bank.

Born to American immigrants, he served as a commando with the special forces before starting a lucrative career in high-tech.

Avigdor Lieberman

The outgoing foreign minister and head of the hard-right Yisrael Beitenu party, Lieberman is known to his critics as the "doberman".

A firebrand with ambition to lead the right, Lieberman, aged 56, has been dogged by corruption allegations for nearly two decades but in 2013 was acquitted on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

Born in what is now Moldova, he immigrated to Israel at 20 and worked as a nightclub bouncer before entering politics.

He is known for his blistering attacks on Israel's Arab minority as well as on the Palestinian leadership.

Yair Lapid

The former finance minister and head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, Lapid was sacked by Netanyahu in December alongside Livni.

A former news anchor and newspaper commentator, the telegenic 51-year-old entered politics in 2012 pledging to defend Israel's middle class, his party storming to success in elections a year later.

Despite his economics-driven campaign, Lapid failed as finance minister to tackle the soaring cost of living and reduce spiralling rents.

Moshe Kahlon

A popular former Likud minister who left politics before the previous election two years ago, Kahlon returned to set up his centre-right Kulanu party in late 2014.

Kahlon, aged 54, earned fame as communications minister for smashing Israel's mobile phone monopoly, cutting prices for consumers.

The son of immigrants from Libya, Kahlon says he backs a two-state solution but sees "no partner" on the Palestinian side.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  israel elections 2015

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