9th February 2009
By Matthew Kalman
Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to return to power in Israel, a decade after his last controversial term.
Voters are expected to lurch to the Right in tomorrow's general election.
Tough-talking Mr Netanyahu, leader of the Right-wing Likud Party, is firmly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Weekend polls showed the Likud leading with about 26 seats in the 120-seat Knesset parliament and a wafer-thin advantage over foreign minister Tzipi Livni of the ruling Kadima Party.
Whoever wins in Israel's system of proportional representation must form a coalition with other parties, leaving Mr Netanyahu, 59, with the choice of a narrow Right-wing government or a broad national unity government with Kadima and Labour.
Mr Netanyahu was elected in 1996 as Israel's youngest prime minister after a wave of Hamas suicide bombings ended the election hopes of Shimon Peres, now Israel's ceremonial president.
The former commando is credited with playing a key role in opening up Israel's economy to the free market, boosting a period of strong economic growth.
But his administration was overshadowed by disputes - with the Palestinians, with the Americans, with Europe and finally with his own Right-wing coalition partners, who brought about his downfall in 1999.
Mr Netanyahu says he has 'learned from my mistakes' and has promised to do better this time round.
The only party showing a significant rise in the polls apart from Likud is Yisrael Beitenu - Israel is Our Home - led by Avigdor Lieberman, a pugnacious Russian-born former aide to Netanyahu who has been under police investigation for corruption for most of the past ten years.
The run-up to the general election has been dominated by Israel's war in Gaza, which has claimed 1,300 lives.
Two more Hamas rockets landed in Israel on Sunday despite a supposed ceasefire between Hamas and the Israelis. But it emerged last night that Israel and Hamas are on the verge of agreeing a new ceasefire. Egypt has been mediating between opposing sides, according to Egypt's foreign ministry.