UPDATE: At 10 PM local time tonight, the three major Israeli TV channels published their exit polls. Channel 1 and Channel 10 exit polls showed Zionist Union and Likud tied at 27 seats. Channel 2 gave Likud a one seat lead, with 28 to Zionist Union’s 27. The United Arab list received 13 seats in the polls; Benneth’s Jewish Home received eight seats only. The religious right-wing Yahad party failed to cross the threshold.
The results showed that the strategy of Prime Minister Netanyahu over the last week worked. His Likud party succeeded in closing a four-seat gap with the Zionist Union.
Netanyahu and other Likud members used scare tactics to convey the message that votes for smaller right-wing parties would endanger the forming of a government under the leadership of the PM and would bring the left to power.
Netanyahu also used the meddling by the U.S. government and Scandinavian countries in the Israeli election to gain more votes. Both the Obama administration and the Scandinavian countries are very unpopular in Israel.
The results of the exit polls indicate that Netanyahu is set to retain the premiership. He will be able to form a coalition of right-wing parties with the new center party Kulanu of former Likud minister Kahlon, or a broad coalition that includes Kulanu and Yes Atid. The latter won 12 seats according to the exit polls.
The chances that Zionist Union leader Herzog will be able to form a coalition are low.
–Original story follows–
It’s election day in Israel. 10,119 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. across the country. 5,883,365 eligible voters will be able to cast their ballots until 10 p.m., when the first exit polls are due.
While the final results of the Israeli elections today will only be published tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM local time, a few developments indicate a possible dramatic outcome.
On Monday evening, the Zionist Union – the leftwing combined list of Labor and Hatnua that is leading in the polls – announced that HaTnua leader Tzipi Livni had decided to forgo rotating the premiership with Labor leader Yitzchak Herzog.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu reacted to the decision, saying that it was indicative of panic. According to analysts, the decision was taken after polls indicated that the Zionist Union would gain another two seats if Herzog would be the sole ZU candidate for the role of Prime Minister.
Today, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Benneth warned that the right could be defeated because of the high turnout of Arab voters (roughly 20% of the electorate) and because the leftist parties seemed better organized.
Early this evening, Netanyahu uploaded a press statement to his Facebook page in which he warned that Likud is losing the election.
“We’re in a fateful campaign. There is still a meaningful gap between Labor and Likud. The only way to shrink the gap is to go to the ballot box and vote ‘Mahal,’” Netanyahu said, in a reference to the letter-based symbols on Likud’s election slip.
Netanyahu again blamed foreign governments and left-wing NGOs for the left’s improved showing in this election.
“The gap between Labor and Likud is based primarily on foreign funds that flow in vast quantities to leftist NGOs. Its purpose is to replace a Likud government headed by me with a left government supported by the Arab list,” he says.
Ayman Odeh, chair of the Arab Joint List, figured large in Netanyahu’s warning to the right.
“Ayman Odeh, who supports [Zionist Union leader Isaac] Herzog, has already said not only that I must be replaced, but that I should be put in prison for defending the citizens of Israel and the lives of IDF soldiers [during last summer’s Gaza war]…. A left government that depends on such a list will surrender at every step, on Jerusalem, the 1967 lines, on everything, and therefore there’s an immense effort of leftist NGOs to mobilize voters from the left bloc, primarily in the Arab sector, and in areas where leftists vote,” Netanyahu wrote.
Earlier today, Israeli Hebrew media reported that the left-wing NGO V15 was offering Arab voters free transport to the polling stations.
As Western Journalism reported yesterday, V15 is indirectly funded by the U.S. State Department via One Voice. One Voice is the “legal-organizational channel” for Victory 2015 (V15), a campaign seeking to defeat Netanyahu.
The Joint Arab List is a new phenomenon in Israeli politics. Polls predict a total of 12 seats for the list. Some analysts say the number could even be higher. It is widely believed that the Arab list will not join any coalition of Zionist parties, but the list could become the leader of the opposition.
Naftali Benneth, the leader of the Jewish Home party, also warned against the apathy among the right-wing electorate. He told Israel radio that, while touring the country, he had noticed that the Zionist Union and other leftwing parties were better organized. He warned that the Right could be defeated and placed the following dramatic message on his Facebook page:
We are fighting for our home.
This is not a game.
This is our land.
This is our nation.
There are four hours left!…
Small parties wipe out?
Three parties – Meretz, Yahad, and Yisrael Beitenu – are currently hovering perilously close to the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the vote. If any of the three are wiped out, it could have implications on the overall picture.
For example, a new Knesset without the leftist Meretz party would leave Herzog’s Zionist Union the sole remnant in what was once the largest political camp of the Zionist left.
Even with a largish advantage over Likud, Herzog would find it impossible to build a majority without Meretz; and the best he could hope for would be a national-unity government. Netanyahu, however, has ruled out the 4 forming a unity government with Zionist Union.
No Palestinian State
In a related dramatic development, Netanyahu on Monday pledged he would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. In an interview with the NRG news site, Netanyahu said that if he were elected again, a Palestinian state would not be created.
“I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel,” Netanyahu said. “The left has buried its head in the sand time and after time and ignored this, but we are realistic and understand.”
During the interview, Netanyahu declared that if the Zionist Union were to win the elections, “it would attach itself to the international community and do their bidding,” including freezing construction in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements and cooperating with international initiatives to return Israel’s borders to the 1967 lines.
Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/possible-dramatic-outcome-israeli-elections/#g8g6YFOl7OkTFZE3.99