Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned a 2009 understanding that he would support a separate Palestinian state, outraging European and United States governments.
Polling in the Jewish state opened on Tuesday afternoon Australian time.
The expectation among politicians and commentators is that a left coalition, the Zionist Union, could snatch a close victory.
An unnamed “senior Member of the Knessett” from the ruling Likud party was reportedly foreseeing a loss for their party.
“If we win, that would be excellent,” the MK was reported as saying in Haaretz.
“But even if we lose, it will be a healthy and good process for the Likud. Netanyahu will go home, and a whole generation of potential leaders will finally be able to contend for the leadership.”
In the lead-up to the poll Mr Netanyahu made comments to pro-settler news outlet NRG, tied to settler newspaper Makor Rishon according to Haaretz, that backflipped on his prior position.
“I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel,” a translation of Mr Netanyahu from Hebrew reported in Haaretz said.
“The left has buried its head in the sand time and after time and ignores this, but we are realistic and understand,” he said.
Mr Netanyahu also visited the southeast Jerusalem suburb of Har Homa, where he announced would be the site of further Jewish settlements to block a feared “Hamastan B”, or a Palestinian capital, if the prospective leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union form a government.
“We won’t be able to preserve Israel’s security, and the terror that worked against us before will fire missiles at us from these hills,” he said.
His statements were regarded as aimed to sure up right-wing votes ahead of the election, in which polls suggest he could lose government by four seats. His opposition was also working on their support base.
Ms Livni said if it made the difference between forming government or not, she would abandon a power sharing arrangement with Mr Herzog.
“The decision to give up the power-sharing deal proves that we are doing what is necessary,” she said, as reported by Haaretz.
The election also drew attention from internet sensation Chuck Norris, who appeared in a short video praising Israel and asking voters to re-elect Mr Netanyahu.
“It’s so important to keep a leader who has the courage and vision to stand up against the evil forces that are threatening not only Israel, but the United States.”