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Netanyahu announces on Sept. 10 that he'll annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he's re-elected. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel holds elections Tuesday for the second time in less than 6 months, and the latest election polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party getting close to the magic number of 61 members in the Knesset for a right-wing bloc.

Why it matters: Netanyahu needs a 61-member right-wing coalition to win immunity if the attorney general decides to indict him for 3 cases of corruption after his upcoming hearing on Oct. 3.

  • He'd also need 61 to pass a law allowing the Knesset to overrule the supreme court if it were to conclude Netanyahu’s immunity status were illegal.

Driving the news: The last polls, published Friday, showed Likud tied with Benny Gantz's Blue and White party, with 32 seats each.

  • In the previous elections, they were tied at 35 seats.
  • But the latest polls also showed the right-wing bloc is at 58 or 59 seats. That's the highest since the beginning of the campaign.

The big question: What happens if neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can form a coalition, a scenario that could drag Israel into the most protracted political crisis of its history.

  • Prospects for a unity government look dim given the political stakes on both sides. Gantz has already committed not to sit in a coalition headed by Netanyahu with indictments pending.

Such an extraordinary situation would set up 2 key players:

  • Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, who has the authority to decide who gets the mandate to form the government and who could try to find a compromise that will solve the political crisis.
  • Trump, who supports Netanyahu and already has sought to shore up his political fortunes.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).