Benjamin Netanyahu will again try to form a coalition to bring current deadlock to an end
Israeli diplomats across the world began voting last week, kicking off the second national election the country has held in just six months.
About 3,500 staff and their families in more than 95 embassies and consulates cast their ballots early. The votes will be sent in sealed envelopes back to the country ahead of election day on 17 September.
Israelis are voting in a second poll that no one wanted not the government, not the opposition, not the public and certainly not the treasury, which says the election will cost more than 100m.
The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared to win an April ballot when he and rightwing parliamentary allies came out ahead. However, his attempts to form a coalition government stalled over disagreements between Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties and secular politicians.
Avigdor Lieberman, a former defence minister and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, had sought guarantees that ultra-Orthodox religion students, who are largely exempt from conscription, would be forced to serve in the army.
Netanyahu ultimately failed to quell the infighting. Rather than give the opposition a chance to forge a government, he instead pushed to dissolve the Knesset, triggering repeat elections and giving him another chance.
Lieberman, a Netanyahu ally-turned-rival, appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the second election. His public dispute with religious leaders has seen his party jump in popularity, possibly with secular Israelis, and it seems he could gather enough seats to become a kingmaker for the next government.
Before the election [Lieberman] was seen as part of the centre-right or the right-religious coalition. Now he is a player in the middle of the map, a pivot player, said Gideon Rahat, a political science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.
There have been few other major changes this election compared with the last, and the campaign only started to gather speed this month. Netanyahu still faces three major corruption scandals charges he denies with pre-trial hearings to begin next month. As in previous election run-ups, he has been accused of appealing to hardliners and exploiting domestic divisions.