It is a parliamentary democracy and the world's only Jewish state, though its population includes citizens from many ethnic and religious backgrounds.
During the election campaign his Labor party promised Israelis a significant improvement in personal security and achievement of a comprehensive peace with the Arabs "within six to nine months" after the elections.
Elections to the Knesset are normally held every four years, but the Knesset can decide to dissolve itself ahead of time by a simple majority, known as a vote of no-confidence.
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