…from Russia Today, Moscow
[ Editor’s Note: You will notice that Iraelis are still using paper ballots. Gosh, what have they figured out that Americans have not? I am starting this out in War Zone and then probably moving it to Politics later in the day. But it will be easy to find.
We pray that Likud gets unseated to upset the lock the Likud has had on Palestinian negotiations, and its ability to create incidents which require the bombing of Gaza every two years, and little nasties like supporting ISIL.
Will the now opposition do the same thing if they win? Possibly they will, but there is at least a chance they will represent a shift. They have already said that finalizing Israel’s borders would be one of their top priorities, something no past leadership has wanted to do so as to keep the door open for grabbing a few more acres if the opportunity arose.
But that is a double edged sword if they pursue it unilaterally and not as a final peace settlement on the West Bank and Gaza. The general thinking is that they will be more pragmatic on the Iran nuke negotiations where sabotaging them would not be their top goal.
As for American relations, their focus seems to be keeping the money rolling in as they have to shift funding to social issues to fulfill election promises, and sticking American taxpayers with as much of their defense bill as possible is critical to them long term.
But first we have to see if old fashioned ballot box stuffing is alive and well in Israel. One look and their inexpensive cardboard boxes was a bit scary at first glance, but in a small country I would image that many eyes will be on the boxes and the ballots until the last one is counted. Please pray for “Bye, bye Bibi” today…and hopefully it will be wonderful day… Jim W. Dean ]
Bye, bye Bibi? – We shall see
As Israelis are heading to the polls to cast their ballots for the 20th Knesset, PM Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fourth term in office. But the outcome is too close to call as the Likud party faces strong opposition from the Zionist Union.
Last and final update – 12.28am March 18
…from Press TV
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads parliamentary elections with 96 percent of the ballot boxes counted, trailed by archrival Zionist Union.
Accordingly, Likud has so far secured 29 seats and its nearest rival, the center-left Zionist Union, won 24 seats in the Tuesday parliamentary polls, reported Ynetnews, the website for Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.
The United Arab List is in third place with 14 seats, followed by the centrist Yesh Atid with 11 seats, and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu with 10 seats. Exit polls had earlier given the archrivals almost equal standing.
Figures published by public Channel 1 and private Channel 10 televisions had given the two 27 seats each in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli parliament). A third exit poll by private Channel 2 had given Likud 28 seats, a one-seat lead over Isaac Herzog (pictured above) of the Zionist Union.
Following the elections and prior to the release of the preliminary results, Netanyahu declared victory in the tight race.
“We achieved a great victory for the nationalist camp, headed by the Likud,” Netanyahu told supporters at his Tel Aviv campaign headquarters shortly after midnight.
He said he already reached out to leaders of smaller parties in the wider right-wing bloc and urged them to quickly set up a coalition, which he insisted should be “strong and stable.” Israeli minister and Likud member Silvan Shalom has also sounded upbeat about the returns, saying the party would seek to set up a coalition government with right-wing parties and ultraorthodox groupings.
“Israel has said today a very clear yes to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud,” Shalom said. “We are willing to form a coalition in short time, in next few days. I think we will have strong coalition,” he has noted.
The results were characterized by sharp contrast from the opinion surveys conducted prior to the elections, which had predicted a humiliating defeat for Netanyahu, who is in the sixth year of his political leadership.
The Israeli premier has been lately facing growing criticism for his handling of domestic politics and also a controversial anti-Iran speech he made at the US Congress on March 3.
Herzog: Not on my watch
Herzog, meanwhile, refused to concede defeat, telling supporters early Wednesday that he will make “every effort” to create the next coalition government. “As we wait for the real results, everything is open,” he noted.
Herzog said he has spoken to potential coalition partners and is committed to forming a “real social reconciliation government.”
Election day ‘propaganda’
Israel’s electoral authorities blocked the broadcast of a press conference on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as voters went to the polls, saying that “propaganda” was banned on election day.
Netanyahu responded furiously in a video posted on Facebook. “All the politicians are speaking to the press today… and it was blatant election propaganda,” he said.”The only one they decided to ban from speaking to the press was me!” he spluttered.
Meanwhile, according to Ynetnews, Israeli police opened 51 investigations on Tuesday related to alleged voting fraud ranging from impersonation, stolen ballots and threats against ballot officials, and 23 suspects were being pursued.
Third update – 6:05pm EST
The national election in Israel has finished with no clear lead for any party, exit polls showed on Tuesday evening. Israel’s governing Netanyahu-led Likud party and the opposition Zionist Union have seen even results, the national TV channels reported.
Channel 10 and Channel 1 said the two opposing parties secured 27 seats each in the 120-member parliament – the Knesset. Channel 2 said that PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud finished with a narrow victory, winning 28 seats to the 27 of Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union.
The Joint Arab List, led by Ayman Odeh, which has emerged as one of the surprises in the election campaign, took the third place in the vote, according to exit polls.
The Tuesday election proved to be a test for Israel’s long-serving PM Benjamin Netanyahu, with the vote having been predicted to be a closely-fought battle. While Netanyahu stayed true to his hardline policies, having once again announced on Monday that he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state, the Zionist Union concentrated their election campaign on social and economic issues.
The results were claimed to be a “great victory” by Netanyahu. On his Twitter account, the PM said that “against all odds” the election became “a great victory for the national camp led by Likud, a great victory for the people of Israel.”
Voter turnout in the election has surpassed 2013 attendance levels, with almost 66 percent of 5.9 million eligible voters declared to have attended two hours before the polls closed.
Turnout among Arab Israelis, who account for just over 20 percent of the population, was reported to have been higher than in the past. They were seen to have formed long lines outside polling stations on Tuesday, with the leader of the Arab Joint List Ayman Odeh describing the current vote as “a historic day for the Arabs.”
With final results not expected until early Wednesday morning, the lineup of Israel’s new government will not be completely clear for some weeks, but its formation has already proved to be a challenge for both winning candidates.
Israelis vote for party lists, not individual candidates, with the Knesset seats allocated according to the percentage of the votes which the parties win. The country is thus governed by a coalition, with the head of the winning party having up to six weeks to form it.
Second Update – 3:48pm EST
The military wing of Palestinian Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, listed as a terrorist organization in the US, UK, EU bloc and other countries, has announced their support for Ayman Odeh. The Arab politician heads an alliance of four small, largely Arab-backed parties – the Joint List, having emerged as one of the surprises in the election campaign.
“Today we are giving our answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us,” the head of the Joint List, which includes nationalists, Islamists and the Jewish-Arab Communist party said, as quoted by AP.
Arab-Israelis, who account for just over 20 percent of the population, reportedly forming long lines outside polling stations on Tuesday, prompted Odeh to describe the current vote as “a historic day for the Arabs”.
Voter turnout in the election has surpassed 2013 attendance levels by almost two percent. It stands at 65.7 percent as of 8 pm local time (6 pm GMT).
First Update – 1:43pm EST
[ Note: The feathers are beginning to fly as cheaters are getting caught trying to bend-break the rules and the election commission is pounching on them with quick decisions.]
A statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expected to be delivered on Tuesday evening, has been banned from live broadcasting in Israel, Haaretz reported.
Netanyahu’s press conference qualifies as election propaganda, according to the Central Elections Committee head, Justice Salim Joubran.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is also head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, has warned voters that if they chose any other party, it would lead to the growth of terrorist movements in the country.
“Whoever wants to prevent an ISIS branch and an Al-Qaeda cell in Israel must vote for Yisrael Beiteinu,” Haaretz quoted the politician as saying while touring the polling stations.
Social Media post: Far-right leader Lieberman basically just cast #Israel‘s 20-percent Arab minority as a future branch of ISIS or al-Qaeda .
Last week, Lieberman was himself compared to Islamic State militants, after he suggested that Arab citizens who are disloyal to Israel deserve to be decapitated.
The ultra-orthodox Shas party has courted controversy after handing out flyers promising a “key to heaven” for the voters.
In its advertisements, distributed by the party on Tuesday, Shas founder and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was pictured with a promise saying “those who vote for Shas will go straight to heaven,” with an image of a key above it.
Right-wing parties urgently filed petitions against the ultra-Orthodox movement.
Israel’s Central Election Committee has issued an injunction to stop the distribution, Haaretz reported, as the country’s election laws prohibit politicians from promising spiritual rewards to voters. Shas then slammed the ruling, the news source reported, quoting the party as stating to be “proud of our tradition, enough with the silencing and incitement!”
By 4pm (2pm GMT), over 45 percent of Israelis had cast their votes, according to data based on 9,000 polling stations across Israel, Haaretz reported.
By 12pm (10am GMT), voter turnout stood at 26.5 percent, the Haaretz reports.
The IDF has used Twitter to call on Israeli soldiers to take part in the election.
By 10am (8am GMT), 13.7% of voters had cast their ballots, which is over 20 percent higher than the voter turnout at the same hour in the previous two elections, Haaretz reports.
Former President Shimon Peres, who lost an election to Netanyahu in 1996 and who said he supports the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog in the current election, has cast his vote.
“I call on all citizens of Israel – Jewish, Arab, Christian, Druze, Circassian, young and old – come to vote – today is a celebration of democracy,” Peres said as cited by Ynetnews.
Only 7.4 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots during the first two hours of the election, Israeli media report. That’s the lowest turnout number for this period since 1973, the Times of Israel specifies.
In 2013, marked by higher than average turnout, 11.4 percent had voted in the first two hours. In 2009 it was 10.3 percent.
RT’s Paula Slier, who’s following the election in Tel Aviv, says that the Israelis’ frustration with the current economic situation and the lack of progress in the Palestinian issue might get in the way of Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to hold on to the reins after the current election.
Domestic issues are outweighing foreign policy ones in the current election, according to Owen Alterman, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
“It’s economic issues, housing prices, the cost of living that are really the major political issues here and that are going to loom large,” Alterman told RT. “The Iranian issue is one Netanyahu is personally committed and passionate about it. Mr. Netanyahu and the political right here in general have an advantage when it comes to security issues, because the public tends to lean more towards their position than toward the political left. As with the economic issues, [the right] tend to have a disadvantage, so Mr. Netanyahu in terms of his election campaign and strategy has a distinct incentive to steer the debate towards security issues and away from the economic issues.”