The do-over election was triggered after Avigdor Lieberman, a former Netanyahu ally, refused to join his coalition last April, accusing the prime minister of giving ultra-Orthodox religious parties too much power.
Netanyahu, 69, is already the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, having held the reins of power for a total of 13 years so far: from 1996 to 1999, and then since 2009.
Polls forecast that Yisrael Beitenu, a secular ultranationalist party largely supported by Lieberman's fellow immigrants from the former Soviet Union, will grow. Especially interesting is the crucial subplot of Arab voters' turnout in the polls as they could potentially keep Netanyahu out by throwing their weight behind a rival claimant, in this case Benny Gantz of the Red and White Party. The already unprecedented general election is also the culmination of an existential drama for PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"We will act to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people", he said.
The prime minister "won" the last Israeli election in April when he and his Right-wing allies got the most seats in parliament.
But instead of allowing his nearest challenger, Benny Gantz, to try to form a government, Netanyahu called new elections.
When it comes to security issues, the political differences between Likud and Blue and White are narrow, with both sides taking a similarly hard line on the regional struggle against Iran and relations with the Palestinians. They have an issue with the prime minister and the allegations of corruption.
Netanyahu has posted an interview with his American pollster on social media, warning that polls indicated left-wing voters were more enthused.
"No more instigating rifts in an attempt to divide and conquer, but rather quick action to form a unity government", he added.
Netanyahu, as in the past, has also been criticized for harsh anti-Arab rhetoric leading up to the vote, which might galvanize the Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent who make up about a fifth of the electorate. Locals accused them of voter intimidation with Likud saying they were trying to prevent election fraud.
To garner support from the nationalist right, Netanyahu has promised to take steps toward annexing Israel's West Bank settlements. Likud would have to abandon the members of their conservative Zionist coalition by removing the protections against military service requirements for ultra-orthodox Jews.
The high voter turnout, however, is believed to be among Arab-Israelis and the left, prompting Netanyahu to call an emergency party meeting and urge his supporters to cast their ballots.
His proposal sparked a cascade of global condemnation, including from Europe and Saudi Arabia, an influential Arab country that has quiet, unofficial ties with Israel.
Most critically for him, such a coalition would be expected to grant him immunity from prosecution on a series of expected corruption charges. In April, there was some controversy when election monitors from Netanyahu's Likud party turned up with cameras in Arab areas.
"I am now asking for your confidence so as to complete this historic task and to fortify the State of Israel's borders and security forever".
Israelis are hitting the polls for the second time this year.